Sunday, October 9, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new

A full week in Frankfurt with new experiences.  It started with a wonderful General Conference.  After that our primary focus was on getting our new Self-Reliance courses started, preparing for our Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting and studying the German Language.  We even got a new car. We start our blog with Sister Rueckert's favorite thing about Frankfurt, the beautiful view of the skyline of the city from the balcony of our apartment.  When we return from our different travels, it is always there awaiting us and giving us peace and joy.

As evening approaches, the is the time to see the lights but still distinguish the buildings. caption

A little before dusk, with a little of our geraniums in our balcony

General Conference: Since Germany is 8 hours ahead of Utah, the General Conference sessions obviously start later.  Only the morning sessions are shown live at the chapel.  The other Saturday sessions (afternoon and Priesthood) are shown on Sunday, during the day.  The Sunday afternoon conference is shown as part of Church services the following Sunday.  Due to the time difference, our first session begins at 6:00 pm in the evening.   While many watch in their apartments on the internet, we like going to the chapel.  The German feed is in the chapel, the English in the Cultural hall and a Spanish feed in the primary room.  The photo below is of our English audience, comprised of Elder and Sister Rueckert and the young missionaries.  On Sunday, the attendance is a bit higher.

We were able to attend all the general sessions during the weekend live, morning sessions live at the Church house, afternoon sessions at home, finishing up at midnight each day.  We watched the Priesthood session after the fact on Sunday morning in our apartment.

What a glorious thing it is to hear these messages from our leaders.  We are so inspired by their words.  Sister Rueckert and I have made a list of things that we have chosen to work on based on what we heard.  We especially love that we can listen to these talks over and over again, while we exercise, while we drive or just sitting down and soaking up the spirit.  It certainly rejuvenates us for the next six months.  Today as we watched the final session again at Church, we were able to follow along with the written version on our iPads, which made the talks even more meaningful the second time around.  

We felt several strong messages from the conference, including great insights on how to be a better missionary to others.  We loved the references to the Great Plan of Happiness and to Joy.  The good news of the gospel to live and to share is based on love and the atonement of our Savior.  We must not "look beyond the mark . . . Jesus Christ is the mark!"

Monday after conference was a German Holiday, Unification Day.  This celebrates the day that East and West Germany were reunited 26 years ago.  We think this holiday is a pretty unique and special.  Being here, we get a little feeling of the impact of the separation.  It hits us in much of what we do.  It is so hard to imagine the challenges that the separation caused, but we rejoice with the German nation on their reunification.

We chose to stay at home during this holiday. We wanted a day to relax and prepare.  We have learned to cherish our time at home and never seem to have enough to time to do all that we want.   This includes catching up on our work, studying the German language and taking as much time as possible to work on our Family History.  That was our priorities of this day.

During the day we went to the office to print manuals for our new Self-Reliance classes.  It is much better to do on a holiday because we are not competing for the use of the printer.  While Sister Rueckert printed and bound manuals, I took the time to put more of the Rueckert names that we have found into Family Search.  I completed a family of 25 children with two different mothers.  Of those, 14 died before the age of eight.  Every time that I see the tremendous number of infant deaths in our family history work, I get so excited to be able to seal these children to their parents in the temple.  These don't need baptisms or endowments, only the sealing ordinance.  After spending a few hours on this, I was also able to enter in names that will require over 30 baptisms and endowments.  We are just getting started to document the many names that we have found.  I was also able to send hundreds of images to our angels in the U.S. (Gloria and Stephanie) who are indexing names as fast as I can send them. 

While in the office, we saw Elder and Sister Stay, who also had stayed home due to the rainy weather.  We have been wanting to have them to dinner for some time, so we invited them to eat with us on Monday evening.  To our joy, they accepted.  We then had a wonderful dinner with them.  The food was our leftover food from an earlier dinner, but the joy was in their company.  Elder and Sister Stay are on their second mission in Frankfurt and they are currently working with the refugees.

What is unique about them however is their incredible knowledge of the gospel and especially of the Hebrew language and the Old Testament.  We wanted to know how someone gets to this advanced stage of knowledge.  They were kind enough to share their experiences.  Sister Stay studied Hebrew while living in Ohio and ended up getting a degree in Hebrew from the Overland College while being a stay at home mom.  She also spent considerable time learning in a Jewish study group in a synagogue. She took an interest and soaked up all that she could.  She has since taught Hebrew and the Old Testament classes in the past few years of her life.  She teaches senior couples these classes during the day and evening to accommodate the time availability of the missionaries and others.  We attend a class with her on Wednesday evenings when our schedules permit.   This dinner with the Stays was a special blessing to enjoy on our German holiday.  

German Study: On Monday we were also able to give extra time to our German study efforts.  We have tried to be diligent in our study of this language so that we can communicate with others.  Our vocabulary has increased and also our understanding of the grammar.  However, we still have difficulty opening our mouths in conversations.  We have been studying weekly with Sister Peterson, who we met in the MTC.  She Zooms with us each Tuesday evening (noon her time).  She has been an incredible help with our grammar and we are now doing more conversation with her.  We have also started a Tuesday night German conversation class with a local member and 4 other senior missionaries.  Sister Rueckert continues her German class with other Sister missionaries late Tuesday afternoon.   That leaves us with a German Tuesday afternoon / evening.  Sister Rueckert goes to class from 4:30 to 5:30.  We start our new German class at 6:00 to 7:30 and then we speak with Sister Peterson from 8:00 to 9:00 pm.  We usually spend most evenings studying on-line.  Sister Rueckert focuses on Duolingo while I focus on Rosetta Stone.  The following photos indicate are current status on those efforts.

This is Sister Rueckert's screen from her Duolingo web site.  She is certified 47% fluent and has a current steak of 30 days in a row.  When we travel she often ends up losing her streak and then starting again.
This is Elder Rueckert's screen from Rosetta Stone.  The course has 20 units, I have been trying to finish one unit per month so that I can finish by the end of the mission.  This last week was an exceptionally good week, I was able to finish Unit 9 by Sept. 8, my best effort so far.
Sister Rueckert studying and drilling me on our homework from our new German Class after our Breakfast.  We use much of our meal times to study together and practice conversing.

On Wednesday we had another farewell luncheon for senior missionaries going home.  These are always tough, but it is also fun to get to know the new missionaries that are arriving.  This week a new couple arrived for Family History and were assigned the vehicle we had been using.  It was an unassigned family history car earlier this year.  With that we got assigned a new car that belonged to Elder and Sister Edmunds who went home.  The photo below shows Sister Rueckert with our new car, a Nissan Nolte.
Sister Rueckert being the first driver of our new car, while I am waiting for my license to come back

Side view of the car.  It is a little longer than our Hyundai that we had before.

Our efforts this week have included preparing for two new Self-Reliance Groups that began today.  Each is with new material that has not yet been published in Europe.  Hence, we have to take files and build our own manuals.  It is nice to be in an English speaking ward where we can try out new materials.  Today we started a Health and Well Being class with 5 individuals and a new Education for Better Work class for 3 young men.  Each also had a facilitator, Sister Rueckert covered the Health class for our facilitator that has been sick.

Health and Well Being SR Group

Education Group, missing one of the participants
The rest of our week has been focused on preparing for our next Area Self-Reliance Committee.  At the Area Presidency request, we are proposing a strategy to make better use of senior missionaries time so that they can be "Multi-Purpose" missionaries.  We'll see where this goes, but it has been fun to ponder and prepare and share examples from some of the wonderful missionaries that we meet with around the Europe Area.

On Saturday night we were able to eat at our favorite restaurant, Zum Lowen.  It is walking distance from our apartment.  We had the entire restaurant to ourselves with a candle light dinner. The following photos are of our favorite dishes;
Sister Rueckert's favorite, Schnitzel Diablo
Elder Rueckert's favorite, Schnitzel Zwiebel (Onion)
Finally we were able to get registered for an absentee ballot in the upcoming U.S. elections.  We are now legal to vote, we still have to determine how to act as we exercise that important right.