Sunday, May 8, 2016

Missionaries, Muslims and Mothers

Another week  comes to a close and we have grown and been edified.  The primary activity this week was our trip to the Senior Missionary Conference for the Adriatic North Mission in Bosnia.  We were asked to participate and lead a discussion about Self-Reliance with 16 senior missionary couples, the mission presidency and other district leaders.  These also represented many of the branch presidents in the mission, which covers 5 countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro).  These countries were all part of the former Yugoslavia when it was under communist control, until the early 1990s.

First of all, we are learning so much about the history of the different regions of Europe.  This was no exception.  We come away with a greater idea of what has occurred in regions that we had hardly recognized before.  These countries were mostly independent before World War 1 and became united into one royal dynasty.  They became recognized as the country of Yugoslavia in 1943 and were put under communist rule shortly after World War II.  After the communist collapse, the countries again became independent of each other in the early 1990s.  As such, many of the people were raised in a communistic society and the challenges of entitlement are major obstacles for the Church. This brings our self-reliance initiative into a different perspective from the challenges we face in other regions.

This entire area was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which brought the religion of Islam to the region for several of the countries.  Today, Bosnia is about 50% Muslim, which is the major religion.  When the Ottoman Empire came, the people of Bosnia embraced Islam and the people of Serbia resisted.  Religion continues to be a major factor in the strife between countries.  The Serbian attack on Bosnia in the 1990s was essentially an effort to eliminate the Muslim population.  We still have fond memories of a Sub for Santa that we did for a refugee family from Bosnia in Utah.  This was from this Serbian conflict.

During the conference we were able to hear from a local Muslim, who shared with us much of the history and culture of the people of Bosnia.  It was a very open discussion that taught us much that we had not previously understood.

On the way to the airport in Germany, we talked to the taxi driver who is Muslim.  This conversation with a Muslim who has been in Germany for years was similar to others that we have had.  They are all feeling the prejudice against them because of the radical terrorists.  They continually tell us that the Islam faith does not teach or support this activity.  We have learned that theses are good people, that are very misunderstood in the world today because of choices made by a few radicals.

Also, during the conference we went to the site where the country of Bosnia was dedicated by Elder Russell M. Nelson in 2010.  It is located near the World War II memorial.   However, that memorial has been significantly damaged through the ensuing war war between Serbia and Bosnia which ended in 1995.  We went to the same spot and listened as a group while President Grant, mission president, read the prayer for all of us to hear.  This was a special activity during the first day of the conference.

President Grant (left) reading dedicatory prayer for the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina

President Grant with his wife and Elder Charles (Area 70)
Elder and Sister Rueckert with Sarajevo, Bosnia in the background
Better view of Sarajevo in the background from the dedicatory site
Remains of World War II memorial
Outside the memorial
Inside the memorial

The conference was held at a hotel in the mountains above Sarajevo.  This was a beautiful setting near the site of the Winter Olympics of 1984.  The greenery was beautiful.
Outside of the hotel
In front of the hotel
Conference room and the conference

The last night, we were to be entertained with Bosnia culture.  In fact, the counselor in the Mission Presidency, from Slovenia did some dancing and encouraged participation from all.

Mission counselor and his wife, from Slovenia

Other missionary couples joining in the dancing
Overall, we were instructed and edified.  In a short time we learned to love these wonderful missionaries.  The challenges that they have in these countries are immense, but their attitudes are so positive and they love the people so much.  Self-Reliance was a continuing topic throughout the conference, it is needed so much in their small branches!

Photo with all those at the conference. Wonderful missionaries and leaders!

We came home and really enjoyed a Saturday that we could use as a clear P-Day, time to wash clothes, clean the apartment and relax from the previous days and weeks.  It was also time to prepare for Mother's Day which is today.  This is a little different situation, being far from our children.  The photos below show Debbie's mother day presents.

Flowers and Chocolates, always a safe Mothers Day gift.  Also replenishing the nylons and . . .

a German Mother's Day stone heart.  Mama is a international word!

This morning we once again went to the Frankfurt 1st Ward (German speaking) and enjoyed their Mother's Day program.   After the meeting, they had the primary children come to the pulpit and deliver roses to all of the women in the congregation.  We thought that this was a wonderful experience. The children were so cute and excited to deliver flowers.

After the meeting, we met a young couple who were visiting with their missionary parents.  They said, "Rueckert, we have a bishop named Rueckert".  It turns out they are from a ward in South Jordan where my brother David is serving as the bishop.  Small world!

Later in the afternoon we went to the Frankfurt 2nd Ward, english speaking.  When we arrived the bishopric asked me if I could be the last speaker for Sacrament meeting, since the planned speaker could not be there.  After the other planned speakers, there was just 10 minutes left and I had the privilege to talk about mothers, which is an easy topic.  It seemed to go well.

Summer is finally arriving.  It is getting warmer and the skies have been clear the last few days.  A few months ago, I posted a photo of some heavily pruned trees near our apartment building.  In the photo below you can see that they are finally starting to sprout.

A few photos that I have been waiting to share.  Each morning as we eat breakfast, we see a large group of pigeons flying together outside our window.  It is amazing how they stay together.  The photos below show them in a bit of clarity.  We love the familiar scenes that are part of our home!