Monday, May 2, 2016

He is in charge! miracles, tender mercies and beauty

This morning we decided to make our first visit to the Frankfurt 1st ward (German speaking).  They meet in our same building in the morning while our English speaking international ward meets in the afternoon.  We have felt that this would help us to improve our German speaking and understanding if we actually participated in a German speaking ward.

Well as we arrived we sat down and were greeted by a few members.  One gentleman looked at our missionary badges and said "Rückert, that was the name of one of our first members".  I told him that Leonhard Rueckert was my grandfather's brother.  He was excited and went to get us a copy of a history that he had helped put together when the Frankfurt 1st ward celebrated 100 years in 1994.  As I opened the history, under the title of "The Founding of the Ward", it started with the name of Leonhard Rückert.   I was aware that he was the first known member baptized in Frankfurt, but was unaware how much of this history was known locally.  I was overwhelmed as I looked at the history with the name of Leonhard throughout the first few pages.  What a way to feel welcome in this wonderful ward.
The Founding of the Ward, beginning with Leonard Rückert

100 year history of the Frankfurt Ward

Last week we held one of our monthly video conferences with several other self-reliance missionary couples throughout Europe.  This has become one of our highlights of each month.  We love each of these missionary couples and are inspired by their service.  It is wonderful to see them interact with each other over our "Zoom room"  each month.  We leave the video conference feeling uplifted.

We missed a couple that had a visit from family going on and our Italian couple that were traveling, but appeared briefly.

On Wednesday we had our quarterly zone conference with all of the Europe Area missionaries.  The conference was centered around the theme of D&C Section 100.  It was wonderful as we listened to four couples who are completing their missions and Elder Paul Johnson of the Area Presidency.  One of the deep insights that I received came from verse 1:

 "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my friends Sidney and Joseph, your families are well; they are in amine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good; for in me there is all power."

This entire section was likened to us as senior missionaries, but we took special comfort from knowing that while we are serving "our families are well".  However, we recognize that the Lord knows what is best for them as he said  "I will do with them as seemeth me good".  We certainly trust him above our own desires.

The following photo shows our missionary group at this conference.  We are finding it difficult as beloved couples go home, but we look forward to getting to know the new couples that are arriving.

On Wednesday night we facilitated our first Financial Management Self-Reliance group.  Our group was small (5 individuals) but our experience was amazing.  Even though we had read through the materials a couple of times, it really comes alive when we learn it in a group setting.  Personally, I really understood so much better that I don't have any earthly funds or assets that are truly mine.  They all belong to the Lord and I have been entrusted with earthly blessings as a stewardship.  I am to use them according to the desire of my Heavenly Father.  It has given me much to think about and added to my personal study priorities.  It is also consistent with the language of my patriarchal blessing.

On today (Sunday), we also facilitated our first My Foundations group in a Sunday School Class.  With that, we (with our other facilitators) have started all five of the self-reliance groups that were formed in our My Path Workshop the previous week.  Initial reports are very positive.  We had a few no shows, but with only one exception, all are committed to continue this week.  We are so pleased to see the support of an amazing ward, but even more important is to see all that are involved, from strong, active members to new members and investigators and a few less active members.  It seems to be working as we have preached it, it feels good to be part of it at the level of the members.

While being in town this week we seem to find so much to do each and every day.  This is a wonderful work that we are called to.  It is wonderful to feel useful and able to contribute to building the kingdom of the Lord.  We certainly love our mission and love serving together.

At the end of the day on Friday, we received an invite from our dear friends, Elder and Sister Bausman, to accompany them on a visit to a castle on Saturday.  We gladly accepted and had an amazing experience with them and with the castle.  The castle is in Hohenzollern, a little over 2 hours south of Frankfurt.   This was the major castle of several kings during the history of Prussia.  The existing castle was the third castle built on this site and was completed in 1860 by King Friedrich IV.  This is the same king that had the summer palace that we had seen near Berlin a few weeks ago.  We did get to do an English tour of the inside of the Castle, but no photos were allowed.  We were impressed in the first room to see a family tree of royalty from the 1100s until today.  The following are some of the photos we were able to take of this amazing castle.  It certainly is the best castle that we have ever seen. 

Majestically on the top of the mountain

little bit closer view
Entrance into the castle

Entrance way into the castle
Next level of entrance

View of some of the inner courts, perhaps a meeting place of Romeo and Juliet?
Additional inner courts and walkways
In the true inner court of the castle

With our friends, Elder and Sister Bausman
One of the higher rooms up high; "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair!"

On one of the sides of the castle

View of another side of the castle

Panoramic view of the beautiful country side and villages below

Another panoramic view.  They were all beautiful and I learned to do panoramic photos

One of several statues around the castle.  This one is of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, who was responsible for the rebuilding of this castle
After returning from the castle tour, we were able to enjoy a special dinner that evening, celebrating 17 years that we have been sealed together.  I love my eternal companion!

Sunday evening, we were able to go to the home of another missionary couple, Elder and Sister Baker, who shared with us an incredible family history story.  It was presented by a man in Seattle, Washington who was able to identify his ancestors in Montenegro, part of the former Yugoslavia.  After many miraculous occurrences, he ended up in Montenegro, not knowing the language or what he was pursuing.  After a few days of frustration, he ended up meeting a man who was his second cousin.  This man had prepared the total genealogy of the family since the 1100s, but was lacking only one descendant.  This man from Seattle was that one descendent.  He went to Montenegro hoping to find his relatives.  This story was full of so many miracles.  In the end he received a family history document with 2,600 relatives that he was able to take to the temple.

The story was amazing and the timing was perfect.  On Wednesday of this week, we will be in Bosnia, with missionary couples from the former Yugoslavia, including Montenegro.  We will be pleased to be able to share this incredible story identifying individuals in Montenegro who were miraculously able to assist this member of the Church from Seattle.   Hopefully additional good comes out of it.