Sunday, September 4, 2016

Outpouring of the Spirit

On Sunday, November 10, 1968, Elder Thomas Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve met for the first time with the members of the Church in Dresden, Germany far on the communist side of the wall that divided East Germany from West Germany.  I now quote from President Monson's journal that is recorded in the book Faith Rewarded, A personal account of prophetic promises to the East German Saints from the journal of Thomas S. Monson.:

"I was touched by the sincerity of these wonderful Saints.  I was humbled by their poverty.  They have so little.  My heart filled with sorrow because they have no patriarch, they have no wards or stakes - just branches, they have few teaching materials.  They cannot receive temple blessings, neither endowments nor dealings.  They are forbidden to leave their country.  Yet they trust in the lord with all their hearts and lean not unto their own understanding.

I stood at the pulpit with tear-filled eyes and a voice choked with emotion and made a promise to the people: 'If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.' Although this was a dramatic promise, I believe it was inspired by our Heavenly Father and will be fulfilled under His direction as the Saints in the German Democratic Republic continue to demonstrate their faith. . . 

This evening in my hotel room, as I realized the full impact of the promise I had made at Görlitz earlier today, I dropped to my knees and said to my Heavenly Father 'Father, I am on Thy errand; this is Thy Church.  I have spoken words that came not from me, but from Thee and Thy Son. Wilt Thou, therefore, fulfill the promise in the lives of this noble people.' There cursed through my mind the words from the Psalm,'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalm 46:10)"

Today in the rededication of the Freiburg Temple, this promise was again mentioned. This amazing prophetic promise was first fulfilled when the Freiburg Temple was built in 1985, even before the Berlin Wall came down.  Since then the temple has been remodeled two times.  Today marked the rededication of the latest expansion of this temple.  We were able to participate in the dedication services from a meetinghouse in Frankfurt.  Certainly it was good to be there!

Our recommends to the dedication services on our handkerchiefs used in the Hosanna Shout

We were also able to attend the cultural celebration last night by satellite feed.  President Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar and their wives were at the cultural celebration and the dedication today.  We were able to listen to President Uchtdorf on both occasions.  He is so beloved by the German Saints.  After the cultural celebration he stayed for a considerable amount of time to shake hands and give high fives to the youth that participated.  We thought that both events were amazing.

In the Cultural Celebration, they reenacted the history of East Germany and the neighboring countries from World War II until now in song and dance.  There were many youth participating from East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, etc.  All of these countries were impacted by the restrictions mentioned above and all were benefitted by this temple.  As we participated in the celebration, my heart went out to these members of the Church that have grown from such difficult circumstances.  As I saw the armies of youth that participated, I realized what a great future there is for the Church in this part of the world, especially now that they have a dedicated temple again in their midst.  Truly every blessing available to any other Church member is available to these members in direct fulfillment of the prophecy uttered by President Monson 48 years ago.

Today in the dedicatory service, it was very nice and touching.  However, after the Hosanna shout when we as a congregation joined into signing The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning in German, I felt a special rush of the spirit and tears came to my eyes.  I have truly learned to love my heritage in this great country with the German people.  I am so grateful that we have been given the privilege to labor in this part of the vineyard.

This week has been a week of service and blessings in the Frankfurt Area.  We continue to be immediately blessed for our service and I mean literally.  As I mentioned last week, we have been participating with the Jonathon Southall-Evans family in their family home evening, facilitating Self-Reliance lessons.  In return we have been invited to join them for dinner each Monday evening.  This week, we had the lesson first and then joined them and other families in a picnic at the park.  On Thursday we shared a self-reliance lesson with the Mid Singles of the stake and once again were rewarded with a meal afterwards, catered by Elder Mitch Bausman from the Area Office. They had about 16 young people there which was an amazing turnout.  

Mid singles at the dinner.  Elder Bausmann, on the left catered the meal, including home made bread.
On Wednesday, we finished our last make up lesson for our Finance Self-Reliance group.  It was with Sylvia Pelucchi, one of our favorite people.  Sylvia has been such a blessing to this group.  She is from Italy, has lived quite a while in France and is now living in Germany the last few years.  We think she speaks very good English, she says it has gotten better as she has participated in the self-reliance group.  I just wanted to share her service project to complete her certificate of graduation.

When we began the course, we all learned that our resources do not belong to us. It is a stewarship from the Lord for us to use to bless others.  This is a very powerful principle that has stuck with each of us.   When we learned this principle, Sylvia pondered and pondered this concept.  Then she decided to turn her annual holiday into a service experience.  This week she and her husband will leave for Greece where they will spend three weeks helping refugees.  I was overwhelmed to see her faith and desire to bless others.  We always teach that our goal is to become self-reliant so that we can better serve and care for others. Sylvia is a wonderful example of doing that!  Beyond what we have learned in our self-reliance courses, the relationships that we have established are precious and eternal.

Sylvia in our office as we finished the last lesson of the Finance Self-Reliance group

We have also had a wonderful week in the office.  On Wednesday morning we met with our Area Self-Reliance Committee and had a special experience.  The doctrinal discussion was led by our DTA, Steve Maynes, who bore a strong testimony of Self-Reliance principles and a talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie in 1979 on Self-Reliance.  President Paul V. Johnson of the Area Presidency presides over this committee, but the entire committee was very participative. It went just like a council meeting should.  We are pleased with the support that we received from President Johnson and the powerful spirit that we all felt in the meeting.

On Saturday we were invited to help the Sister missionaries give a missionary discussion to the Brazilian family that they have been teaching.  We provided translation services.  The lesson was right before the Cultural Celebration, so they focused on the blessings of the temple and family history.  As part of the lesson we were invited to share our testimonies on Family History.  We shared some of the miracles that we have experienced in the past weeks.  After Sister Rueckert shared her experiences, everyone was in tears.

The sister to the left is Sister Andersen, from Denmark.  Her companion is Sister Jenkins form the U.S.
The investigators are a Brazilian mother with her two daughters
The Sister with the family and their younger children
Today, after the dedication we met again with this family.  I translated for two of them as they had baptismal interviews.  They will be baptized tomorrow.  We have learned to love their wonderful spirit.

As this week turned into September, it appears that the German summer is coming to an end.  Employees and members are returning from holidays (vacations) and everything is beginning to ramp up again.  We have scheduled times to begin meeting with the stakes in the Netherlands.  We have arranged to begin new self-reliance groups in our ward by the end of the month. We have been asked to assist the German speaking ward that meets in our building to get the full Self-Reliance initiative started in their ward.

We are also preparing for our annual seminar with our Self-Reliance Service managers in Madrid, Spain later this month.  No more time for family history trips. Our work in family history will have to move forward in our evening hours and with the angelic assistance of Gloria and Stephanie in the United States who continue to toil with the images that we are sending them.

We have had a very mild summer, but it has been hotter the last few weeks.  We believe that the worst of the hot weather is now over.  We have not talked about our tomato plant for some time.  However, it has now officially died.  We are still eating the final crop of tomatoes.  The photo below confirms that the summer is over!