Sunday, December 4, 2016

Malaria in Germany, Lifting Burdens, Lighting the World

Our week was dominated by an unexpected opportunity to lift the burdens of another.  We also welcomed a new grandson,  our first during our mission, and began our Christmas Season.  The photo below is from our Europe Area Office Christmas social and highlights the Church's campaign to Light the World.  Our week fit wonderfully into this inspired Christmas initiative.

Let me start with the grandson.  Our daughter Gina gave birth to her second child and first son, Hudson Daniel Ferguson on Friday, December 2.  It was actually past midnight in Germany when we received notice that Hudson was born, so maybe he was born on December 3?  This photo came a few hours later.

Hudson Daniel Ferguson born 8 lbs. 1 ounce, 20 inches long

With the wonders of technology we were able to Face Time with him on Saturday.  It was special to see our little grandson, still less than a day old while we are on our mission.  Unfortunately, we were not able to hold him.  This is really a major sacrifice for us.  

FaceTime with Hudson, what chubby cheeks!

As Hudson was born, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck 4 times and it had a huge knot in it, so he needed a little help.  What a blessing to have capable medical assistance available to take care  of our grandson.  This was also the dominant theme of our week.

Back to the beginning of our week.  Last Sunday, Jorge Alvarado, the international Self-Reliance Manager responsible for the Europe Area was scheduled to arrive in Europe for our Area Review.  He was to go straight to England for a few days of visits, spend a few days in Germany and then a few days in Spain, before our Area Review a week later.  Last Sunday while I was home teaching, I received a call from our Area Manager saying that Jorge was not able to make the connection to England and had checked into the Marriott Hotel in Frankfurt and was sick with pretty severe diarrhea.  Our manager was returning from England himself and asked that I try to contact Jorge and see what his plans were.

Sunday I called his hotel room and got no response.  I left a message.  After no response for a few hours, I called again.  Once again no response, once again I left a message.  I figured he was sleeping away his illness and went to bed.  The next morning I tried calling his room to see what his plans were for the day.  This time we made contact and he informed me that he was still very sick.  In fact he had passed out in the bathroom during the night and hit his head on the counter, resulting in a large bump.  He asked if we could get help from the Area doctor.

Upon arriving at work, I talked to the Area Doctor who suggested that the hotel could arrange for a local doctor to visit him.  I called him back and he requested a visit from a local doctor.  After some other meetings, Thomas King, our Area manager, and I went to the hospital to check on Jorge and give him a priesthood blessing.  We found Jorge in pretty tough shape with a large swelling on his head.  While we were there, the local doctor arrived and we left him in the care of the doctor who would work with the hotel to get medication for Jorge.  We returned to the office for other meetings. A little later I called Jorge who informed me that the doctor had given him several medications and wanted him to get an X-ray of his head to understand the condition of the bump and a possible concussion.  The doctor would see him again the next morning after the X-ray.

This all sounded reasonable, so I headed back to the Hotel a little before 3:00 pm to pick up Jorge and take him for a head X-ray.  Sister Rueckert went home to try and recover from a flu/cold bug of her own.  When I got to the hotel, I couldn't get Jorge to respond to my knock on the door, so I called his room again with no response.  Once again I knocked and called.  Finally he responded to the call and came and opened the door.  He was so exhausted that I didn't get much response from him.  

I found the note from the doctor but could not see where we should take him for the X-ray.  I called the doctor back who told me that the name of a hospital was on the back of his note.  He had assumed that Jorge would take a taxi and had just written Ambulance Universitat Klinikum.  He explained that I should go to the clinic to get the X-ray.  After reviewing the room, I identified the medications that he had taken,  gathered up his wallet and passport and then helped Jorge down to my car.  He couldn't walk without losing his balance, so I had to support him on the way to the car.

I found the hospital on my GPS and followed the directions which led me right to a parking facility.  As I got out of the car, I had no clue which of the many buildings to go to.  Jorge was clearly groggy from the medications and was unable to walk very well.  I started asking questions on how to get to the main entrance and was pointed in the direction.  Jorge and I walked passed a few buildings. I would have Jorge lean against a building while I would go and ask for further instructions.  After a few requests, we finally got to the main entrance of the hospital. There I showed the note from the doctor and we were instructed to go downstairs to the emergency room. 

The map below shows the campus of the Hospital which is enormous.  We parked near building 26 and ended up at building 13.  All the time Jorge is weak, with a fever and sweating excessively.  

Finally we found the the emergency room and I had Jorge sit down on a chair, while I checked him in.  From there we were asked to wait in the waiting room.  This consisted of a few separate chairs.  Jorge automatically laid down on the chairs and slept.

Jorge sleeping on the chairs while waiting for emergency room doctors

We waited a few hours in this condition.  I kept asking the desk, saying all we needed was an X-Ray, but it didn't seem to hurry the situation.  Finally around 6:00 pm we were able to be attended by the doctors.  At this time things started progressing.  Finally we had a bed for Jorge to lay on.

They asked what was going on and I needed to fill them in, since Jorge was not very coherent.  Eventually he got into a hospital gown and got his X-Ray.  They didn't want to release him until they took some blood tests and saw the results of the X-Ray.

We spent several more hours in this condition of waiting.  Most of the time Jorge slept.  Nurses attended him, one said that he would be there 24 hours.  Finally I met with a doctor that explained that they had concerns with his blood test and wanted to continue to observe and evaluate.  While in the emergency room, I called Jorge's wife and handed the phone to Jorge.  After she wanted to talk to me and said that it did not appear to be her husband.  Obviously she was concerned.  I had kept in contact with Thomas King who communicated with SLC.  Finally at about 10:00 pm, I decided to go home.  I asked them if I should get the medications that were still in the hotel.  It was made clear that the hospital was now in control and the prior medications or treatment was not of importance.  After returning home, I received an email from Elder Gay, asking us to have them check for Malaria.

Tuesday morning, Sister Rueckert and I went back to the hospital.  They asked us to wait. This went on for about an hour. Finally we were able to get in and we were informed that he had Malaria.  Access would be restricted.  We convinced them that we were all the family that he had in Germany and I was able to visit him after putting on a special gown, mask and gloves.  At least he was coherent at this time and seemed to understand the situation.  We knew he would now be in the hospital for at least 5 days.  Sister Rueckert and I went to the hotel and packed his bags and checked him out.  By the time that I returned later in the day with some of his belongings, he had been transferred to a new room in Building 68A.  

Photo of the main building of the hospital
The rest of the week has been filled with visits and opportunities to assist Jorge.  On Wednesday they were still very concerned about his liver and kidneys.  He also received a visit from the Director of Temporal Affairs of the Church who gave him a priesthood blessing. Thursday, he seemed to turn the corner.  The amazing thing is that he is in one of the best hospitals in the world.  He has had a team of 6 doctors and 2 specialists working with him.  His medical care has been excellent.  It appears that he will be ready to return to the U.S. on Wednesday of this week.

Thomas King and myself during a visit on Thursday.  He was still in isolation.
It turns out that he had gotten malaria during a visit to Africa a few weeks ago.  It hit him for one day and then it went away.  As it is with malaria, it came back big time the day he was getting on the plane to Germany.  

We may not have known what was occurring but our Heavenly Father did.  Mysteriously there was a mix up with his flight to England, forcing him to stay in Frankfurt.  Somehow the doctor that visited him in the hotel sent him to one of the best hospitals anywhere to get a normal X-Ray.  Even the cost of this treatment is considerably less expensive than in the U.S.  As we have pondered it, we realize that if he would not have hit his head, we would not have taken him to the hospital when he needed it so critically.  Even the bump on the head was a blessing.  It all seemed bizarre to us, but in the end Jorge is being well taken care of in the best possible way.

In the middle of all of this, we still tried to prepare for our Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting on Thursday morning and the Area Review with Elder Sitati (and we hoped with Jorge) this coming week.  The Area Self-Reliance Committee meeting went very well.  We are privileged to be led by Elder Paul Johnson of the Area Presidency who is very supportive of our work.  

At the last minute, we found out that Elder Sitati had not been able to get a visa to travel to Germany in time for this visit, so all of the meetings and preparations related to his visit and the Area Review were canceled.  At the end of the story, Jorge came to Europe to be treated for his malaria and then he will return home.  He also accomplished one other important blessing for us, he brought us our second year of medications that we need to finish our mission.

On Thursday, December 1, we had our Europe Area office Christmas devotional and luncheon.  The luncheon was wonderful and the devotional addresses were inspiring.  One thought that I recorded from the devotional was "It is better to light the candle than curse the darkness".  Pretty profound.

We received nice calendars supporting the new Light the World campaign and were entertained with Christmas presentations from several of the countries represented by the employees here.

Just a few photos from some of those presentations:

Our boss sharing The Night Before Christmas Australian style.  This goes with the beginning which is:'Twas the night before Christmas; there wasn't a sound. Not a possum was stirring; no-one was around."
Three Spanish wisemen, bearing gifts
The first nativity in Italy
The America group sharing a Hawaiian Christmas

Thursday also started the Christmas Light the World advent.  We have tried to participate and follow these ideas to make our Christmas season more meaningful as we strive to follow the Savior's example in many different ways.  Hopefully all are aware of this effort.  It can be seen on  The following is a screen shot of the "Light the World" advent.

Day 1 - Jesus Lifted Others' Burdens and So Can You

We felt that this challenge was perfect for us as our entire week has been spent trying to lift Jorge's burdens.  In the end it became so rewarding to us to be able to reach out to another.  We have felt that we had the opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands as we helped look after him.

Day 2 - Jesus Honored His Parents and So Can You

Sister Rueckert sent a wonderful email to my mother, sharing her love for her.  We were pleased to find out that she was able to see the email on December 2.  We talked to her the next day to share our thoughts directly.  My mother has been such a blessing to us.  Besides all that she has done my entire life, we have been blessed to have her living in our condominium and caring for things in our absence.  We cannot imagine trying to serve this mission without her constant help and connection.  

Also this week we were able to receive the translation of a Farewell Book of Poetry from my Grandmother who left Germany when she was 16 years old in 1904.  This book had been preserved by my cousin, Gloria.  At her request we had asked for a translation of this book.  This week the translation arrived and it was done as a favor from a translator, no payment was accepted.  One of the jewels of this project was the note from my Grandfather in this book to his future wife.  He was the missionary that had baptized her.  This entry was made four moths prior to the end of his mission.  The English translation follows with the image of the original in German.

[22] Dear Sister Elisabetha Schlerf, 
May your view always be open and mild 
Your heart be as pure as lilies 
And whatever your mouth may speak 
May it be honest and worthy of praise 
The light of the gospel lights you 
Look to follow that light 
It will bring you happiness, peace & joy 
This in remembrance of my being here in 
John A. Rückert 
Salt Lake City, Utah 
January 9th, 1904 

Copy of the actual writing of my Grandfather to his future wife

 Day 3 - Jesus Helped Other to See and So Can You

We wondered how we could do this one.  However as we visited Jorge on Saturday, we saw that he was able to open his left eye for the first time since he hit his head earlier in the week.  We feel that this challenge was able to be met through our service to Jorge and his normal recuperation.  However, it was a special coincidence that he was able to start using his left eye again on Day 3.

Day 4 Jesus Worshipped His Father and So Can You

This one is easy as we attended our fast and testimony meetings with the Frankfurt 1st Ward in German and the Frankfurt 2nd Ward in English.  We rejoice in the opportunity to worship our Heavenly Father.  We try to do it every day, but the Sabbath Day is such a blessing to us to focus a little more effort to worship Him that we love so much.

Christmas Preparations in our Home

We have enjoyed the opportunity to prepare for our missionary Christmas in Germany.  Sister Rueckert is driven to decorate to make things festive.  The following are some of our decorations and Christmas enjoyment in our apartment during this Christmas Season.  We wish each of those who read this blog a very Merry Christmas.  May we Light the World by following His example.

Small Christmas tree found in the missionary Kellar, decorated by Sister Rueckert.  It sits on our entertainment center.

Wreath on our door, also made from leftovers from previous missionaries

Missionary stocking hung with care, brought from home.  Also our four advent candles.

Our Chocolate Advent Calendars.  Makes a delicious start to each day.

 We also worked this week on our German Nativity set, called a Pyramid.  It turns based on the heat of the lit candles.  After trying for a few days it finally started working.  The video below is a short clip of our working Nativity Pyramid.