Sunday, September 18, 2016

Releasing the Captives on both sides of the Veil

This week I was was reunited with Jacqueline Lacerda 43 years after I baptized her on my mission in Brazil.  She was baptized as a young teenager and served in the Church in Brazil for many years.  Later she moved to Croatia where there was no Church and was not able to keep attending.  About six years ago, she ended up living in the Netherlands.  Some time after that she contacted me on Facebook and we have been Facebook friends ever since.  In our previous visits to the Netherlands, we were not able to meet up for different reasons.  This week during our visit to the Netherlands it finally worked out.  We were able to spend several hours with Jacqueline which was a great joy.  It was the first time for Sister Rueckert to meet her and my first time since being transferred out of Santos, Brazil 43 years ago.

Elder Rueckert and Jacqueline Lacerda in a restaurant in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Our week started out with our last family home evening Self-Reliance lesson with Jonathan Evans-Southall and his family.  We have loved visiting with them for the past 4 weeks.  This week completed all of the make up lessons for Jonathan's Completion Certificate of the My Foundations class.  They are originally from England but are now living in Frankfurt where Jonathan works in the Area Office. 

During our family home evening lesson.  Jonathan, his wife Ashley and his children Elizabeth, Noah and Thomas
We have enjoyed following all of the steps of the My Foundation group, including commitments, reporting and action partners.  Sister Rueckert and I have been the action partners for the two oldest children. We have enjoyed contacting them during the week to make sure that each of us is following up with the commitments made during our group meeting.  We testify that the My Foundation  lessons and principles work in all setting, including families.

Noah has been my action partner and his sister Beth has been Sister Rueckert's action partner.

This week we have been making final preparations for our Managers seminar in Madrid and also for a training visit to the Netherlands.  With preparations in hand, we left for the Netherlands on Wednesday, immediately after our Book of Mormon class.  We left right after 1:00 pm and arrived in time for our 6:00 pm dinner invitation in the home of a member of The Hague stake presidency.  We had a delightful evening getting to know this wonderful family, including their two sons, ages 11 and 13.  The meal was delicious!  We were so grateful to be invited.  This was the first time we had met this member of the stake presidency.  After the meal, we spend quite a bit of time discussing the principles of Self-Reliance and the steps to helping the members of his stake to participate in Self-Reliance groups.  We went to our hotel very enthused about the spirit that we felt and the love that was shown to us.

On Thursday we took time to visit The Hague Temple.  We had in hand 29 temple names that were part of my 9th, 10th and 11th great grandfathers' families.  These were some of the names that we had discovered in our visit to Ergersheim, Germany the previous month (See "Pearls of Great Price" blog entry).    We arrived as the temple was opening at 11:00 am.  They were so kind to arrange for us to do the baptisms and confirmation for these 29 names and added a few more from one of the temple workers.

I was privileged to do the baptizing of Sister Rueckert for 15 individuals.  As the first "Rueckert" name came up, I felt strong impressions from the Spirit and tears came to my eyes.  What a wonderful opportunity after just finding these names a short time ago.  The name was Sara Rueckert, born in 1656.  Most of these were born in the 1600s.  They have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to be baptized.  I know that the work of family history is primarily to prepare opportunities for these individuals to have sacred ordinances done in their behalf.  When these two opportunities come together, the feelings are amazing.

Just a little humorous experience to go along with our temple visit.  After Sister Rueckert was baptized for all of the females, one of the temple workers entered into the baptismal font to baptize me for the males.  Sister Rueckert remained sitting in a chair to observe the remaining baptisms.  After the first baptism, I realized that I had not removed my hearing aids.  I immediately took one of them out of my ear and discovered that the other was sitting on the bottom of the baptismal font.  At this point I had no option but to swim down to the bottom of the font to pick up my hearing aid.  It took several attempts but the hearing aid was retrieved.  It certainly was my first experience of swimming underwater in a baptismal font.  With the hearing aid recovered we continued on to complete the baptisms of the remaining individuals.

After we finished the baptisms, we performed the confirmations of the same individuals, completing these vital ordinances.  We then had the privilege to receive the initiatory work (washings and anointing) for many of these individuals.  With this completed, we will be able to do the endowment work for many of them this coming week as we have a special temple session with our Self-Reliance Managers in the Madrid temple.

The Hague Temple, Elder and Sister Rueckert, holding the ordinance cards of the 29 individuals for whom the baptisms and confirmations were completed. 

We returned to our hotel room before our evening meeting commitment.  I had put the hearing aids back into my ears but they did not work.  This was an obvious concern, since we had not planned on replacing hearing aids during our mission and the cost is over $4,000.  As we got to our hotel room, the hearing aids still did not work.  I took the hearing aids apart as well as I could and used a hair dryer to better dry them out.  I also replaced the batteries and then I prayed.  As I put them back into my ear I was greeted with the wonderful sound of the hearing aid booting up.  I took all the steps that I knew how and than asked the help of the Lord and my prayers were answered.  God is good and kind!

That evening we met with the entire Self-Reliance Committee of the Rotterdam Stake.  This stake has started teaching the My Foundation lessons on the first Sunday of each month in the wards of their stake.  This has been implemented better in some wards than others.  The good news is that the members of the committee have been very engaged in this process.  The meeting went very well.  The new stake specialist was very prepared and suggested that they start holding the Self-Reliance groups with the My Path Workshop and the group meetings outside of the Sunday meeting block. Sister Rueckert suggested that they set a date for January, so that they can appropriately prepare.  The Stake President, who presides in this committee, supported this plan.  They will continue with the monthly emphasis in the wards but take the next step to implement the workshops and groups as suggested.  We felt a wonderful spirit of council with this committee, much of the discussion was in Dutch, while we observed.  This included the stake president, high councilor, agent bishop, relief society president, the stake specialist and another couple that are finance specialists.   We left this meeting enthused for the future of this stake as they are led by their stake president and the stake self-reliance committee.

Our next meeting was not until Friday night with the stake presidency councilor that chairs the Self-Reliance committee of the Apeldoorn stake. Since we had some open time during the day on Friday,  we took advantage to do some work from our hotel room. We then had lunch with Jacqueline Lacerda.  This certainly was a joyous occasion.  We took several hours to catch up on the past 43 years and to share our feelings about the gospel.  We felt a great love from Jacqueline and we love her just as much.  She has retired from teaching languages in Brazil and is currently teaching languages in the Netherlands. She teaches Portuguese to business men working with companies in Brazil. She works with a local university and other schools and also teaches Dutch to foreigners.  She speaks Portuguese, English, German and Dutch, an amazing language ability.

After 3 hours together, we scheduled to get together again the next time we visit the Netherlands which we believe will be in January.

With Jacqueline Lacerda in front of the restaurant where we shared a long, wonderful lunch
After saying good bye to Jackie, we traveled for almost two hours to meet at the Appeldoorn stake.  It is in the Northeast part of the Netherlands.  The stake presidency member is so kind to spend time with us while his son attends seminary and young mens.  In this stake, the stake specialists are frequently in the U.S. visiting family. This was an opportunity to visit with the Chairman of the Self-Reliance Committee, understanding their progress and next steps. As usual, the meeting was positive and we feel that progress will continue, especially as the stake specialists return in November.

That evening after returning from Appeldoorn, we stopped at a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner.  The food was delicious and we enjoyed time to reflect on the completion of our Netherlands trip.  I love serving with my sweet wife.  She is good at feeling promptings of the Holy Ghost and contributing to our efforts.

Before leaving the Netherlands, I wanted to share a few photos of our impressions in our several visits here.

This is a photo of the hotel where we have stayed.  It is reasonably priced and located in between The Hague and the Rotterdam stakes and near the temple.  It is feeling like our home in the Netherlands.

This is our car in the parking lot of the hotel.  One thing that I have noticed in the Netherlands is that all parking spaces are clearly identified with stone outlines.  Very impressive!

Just a photo that I was able to take of a bike parking spot.  I believe that the Netherlands has the highest population of bike riders.  They are everywhere.  Bike lanes are often as large as car lanes.  I know because I have been known to dive down them. Bikes are parked in all locations, well in excess of the cars.

On Saturday morning we left to return to Frankfurt.  The ride is between 4 and 5 hours.  As we have now made this trip several times, we have developed a routine.  During this time, we spend several hours studying German.  Sister Rueckert takes us through an outlined training process and we probably do our best companion studying of German on these trips.  I believe on this trip that we are starting to better understand the Genders and Cases in German, which is one of the most difficult part of the German language.  Besides the study of language, we usually spend a few hours listening to CDs of General Conference.  We have the CDs of October 2015 and have listened to them over and over.  We were once again touched by the talks by Sister Marriot and Elder Lawrence on the Saturday Morning session.  These are amazing talks that inspire us every time we listen to them.  I really love the concept of "What Lack I Yet?" as shared by Elder Lawrence.  There is room for all of us to learn specific direction from the Holy Ghost if we follow the steps that he suggests.  In between German lessons and Spiritual talks, Sister Rueckert continues to feed me snacks, etc. so that I can remain alert and safe while we take these long drives.  I could never make these trips without her.  With her, they are a delight!