This was a wonderful week that ended in a most wonderful way, with General Conference, or in the celestial language, Generalkonferenz. We were asked if we understood President Uchtdorf's german before he translated it, the answer is no. However, as we look at it written, we do understand most of the words and the meaning. However, our ear doesn't pick things up that quick. The celestial language quote was; “Es gibt nichts Gutes, ausser man tut es!” or "There is nothing good unless you do it!". Even though we are 8 hours ahead and many miles away, we can still feel the same spirit of General Conference as we listen prayerfully to the words of our leaders.
We are privileged to at least be able to hear the sessions live. The first session we watched at our local chapel in the cultural hall with other English speakers, mostly young missionaries. It is great to be with them. After that, no more sessions are shown at the Church on Saturday. Therefore, we have to go home and watch it on the internet, until midnight our time. We do go to bed and only watch the priesthood session on our Sunday morning. Finally we watch the Sunday sessions later in the day, finishing one more time at midnight. We go to bed late, but totally filled with the spirit.
We are able to watch the internet through my Mac, hooked into our television so that we can enjoy the large screen effect. It was such a blessing to see our dear prophet address us, both in the priesthood session and the Sunday morning session.
We try to keep some of our traditions alive. On Sunday morning we had a big breakfast as we have been accustomed to do in the U.S., only we don't have to rush ourselves to be ready for the morning session since it doesn't begin until 6:00 pm. However, the breakfast was still good.
A few other thoughts from the week leading up to General Conference:
Conference weekend gave us time to step up our efforts in learning the German language. We don't know if we will ever speak fluently, but we are learning to understand more of the written language and to have some small conversations. We are committing to more on-line live conversations to go with our daily German study. We hope to be more able to communicate in this "celestial language".
On Tuesday morning, we had our monthly video conference with our full-time self-reliance missionaries in the Europe Area. We love these other couples and cherish the time that we are together. In this meeting, Sister Graff, who is serving in France, shared the spiritual thought for the meeting. She talked about the situation in Brussels and the impact throughout the mission. They personally knew Elder Norby who was one of those injured in the terrorist attack and his wife Sister Norby. These attacks are hitting close to home. However, as Sister Graff discussed this, she noted that in spite of the injuries to missionaries and the efforts of the evil one, the Church has received incredible media coverage from this recent attack. This has had a very favorable impact on the image of the Church. Her testimony was awesome as she finished it with a quote from D&C 128:22, "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren and on, on to the victory!" We are so blessed to serve with such amazing servants of the Lord!
On Wednesday Sister Rueckert had the opportunity to teach the other Area senior missionaries out of Ether 13-15 and Moroni 1. Once again we reflected on world conditions and the similarities to when the Jaredites were destroyed. Also we were amazed to see Moroni's view of Ether's view of the destruction of his people, while Moroni was seeing the same happen to his people. Both of these great prophets had the same attitude as mentioned in the scripture by Sister Graff. Sister Rueckert did a great job in leading the discussion and we were all edified. Once again, we recognize that we live in troubled times, but if we are on the Lord's errand, his will will be done and we are privileged to be part of his work and his plan.
On Thursday, Sister Rueckert finally got her first haircut in Germany. It was a little bit more than she expected, but she came out of it as beautiful as ever, even if the look is a little different than it has been in the past.
During this week, we have been making preparations for several upcoming events, including:
- Our first automated self-reliance reporting that will go out to all priesthood leaders during the month of April. A lot of work, but we believe it will bless the work in many ways.
- Preparations for our visit to the Netherlands next week, as we begin working closer with the stakes in that country.
- An upcoming PEF Loan seminar in Portugal in a few weeks.
- A senior missionary conference of the Adriatic North mission, that we will participate in during the month of May.
- Sister Rueckert continues to prepare many posts for the Church intranet, on the Europe page. This is including writing stories to go with the videos that are being created on Self-Reliance success stories.
- Video conference meetings with other senior couples that are working with self-reliance in other countries in Europe, including many that are serving part-time on this initiative in Greece, Bosnia Albania, etc.
We have also received a few new callings here in Germany. We have been called as the self-reliance coordinators in our ward and will be working on a My Path devotional on April 22 with the intent of starting several self-reliance groups for the members of our ward. Also, today we were asked to be in charge of the monthly devotional for the senior missionary couples. As other couples will be leaving this month and next, we are quickly become more senior in our missionary experience. Time to step up more.
On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to go and jog for a few miles in the cemetery across the street from our apartment. It is a large cemetery with ornate graves (see our blog of July 23 of last year). This time as I ran to the extreme south of the cemetery, I saw many smaller headstones lined up in orderly rows. As I stopped to take a look at them, I began reading headstone after headstone with death dates of Nov. 5, 1944 and then others from other dates during the Second World War. As I looked further I also saw headstones with the names of women during this same period. Interesting, I felt like I was one hallowed ground. These were the graves of the German soldiers and other war victims. After spending the previous week in Berlin, this had even more meaning. I recognized that in war, most participants are innocent victims. So many of the young men of this country lost their lives during that terrible war. It caused me to reflect over and over again.
During the general conference, including the women's conference of the previous week, we were touched with the need to reach out to refugees of war in our days. Our hearts have been touched by the video presentations that were part of the Women's conference. President Uchtdorf was one of these refugees and his talk on Sunday was so close to home, as he shared the challenges of that time in his life in this country of Germany. This morning in our devotional, the speaker also was from a family that had fled Eastern Germany to arrive in Western Germany before they found the Church. This theme of war and victims seems to pound deep into my head and into my heart. As Elder Patrick Kearon, our Area President of the Europe Area shared his touching remarks about refugees, I realized that the little that I have done is so insufficient for the needs to these people. I pray that I can find ways to follow the Spirit and help touch lives of those in need in the way that my Heavenly Father desires.