Sunday, February 26, 2017

SR Tool Box and Geburtstag in Heidelberg

This week we were able to concentrate on using the Self-Reliance Initiative Tool Box in Germany.  This included meetings with a stake specialist, a stake committee, a ward council, some returned missionaries and a devotional with our senior missionary couples in Frankfurt.  For each we used a different set of self-reliance tools that fit the situation.  We were able to finish our week in Heidelberg, Germany where we were able to celebrate Elder Rueckert's birthday, German style.

At our Senior Missionary Devotional, introducing the Self-Reliance Toolkit
Last Monday, we returned from England, arriving at our apartment a little before 5:00 pm.  That left us just over an hour to make final preparations for our devotional with the Senior Missionary couples.  We were the speakers or presenters.  We chose to share the Self-Reliance initiative in a little different way.   As I began to announce our presentation, Sister Rueckert interrupted that she had found an unopened Christmas present.  She proceeded to open the "Self-Reliance Initiative Tool Box".  As she removed different items from the tool box, we went ahead and explained specific items.  We started with an overall video with President Johnson of the Area Presidency, showing the connection to the 
Europe Area Plan.  She then discovered the three legged stool and we shared the history of the Perpetual Education Fund and it's evolution to the Self-Reliance Initiative.

Sister Rueckert discovering the three legged stool, from the early stages of the Self-Reliance Initiative
Next was the discovery of the self-reliance manuals and courses which can be used in different settings and for different purposes.

Discovering a long banner of curriculum, led to our explanation of the materials available.
We then did a My Foundation lesson, #6 on Resolving Problems and had the missionaries join in small groups to discuss, ponder and make commitments.  We finished with some success story videos from Cape Verde and Albania and shared our testimonies.

Thank goodness for Sister Rueckert for spicing up our devotional.  We believe that it was well received.

Throughout our week back in Germany we had additional opportunities to strengthen self-reliance efforts.  On Tuesday we met with the stake specialists from the Frankfurt Stake and discussed an upcoming devotional in the Frankfurt 1st Ward.  It also gave us an opportunity to share thoughts about the self-reliance activities within the stake.

On Wednesday we met with the Ward Council in our home ward Frankfurt 2.  Our bishop has been very supportive and he requested that we take the entire Ward Council meeting, since he had several new members of the Ward Council.  We shared a few of the tools and than asked the input of the Ward Council on how we should move forward.  Should we hold another devotional or how do we get more members to participate in the Self-Reliance groups?  The new Relief Society President and the High Priest group leader both has some significant ideas.  In the end we jointly decided to use the First Sunday meetings in March to do a short presentation and encourage groups to form from there.  The Ward Council will also identify members and give specific invitations.

From there we had a new goal, organize a 30 minute mini devotional that could lead to signing up for SR groups.  We worked on that Thursday and chose to use portions of the new My Plan used in the U.S. in a shortened version.  We sent it to the Bishop who approved this concept today.  Now we will move forward, seeking inspiration on the most effective way to take advantage of this time.

On Friday night we went to Heidelberg, Germany (about one hour from here) to participate in the Stake Self-Reliance Committee meeting.  We had understood that they would be doing a My Path Devotional in March and wanted some ideas to be prepared.  When we arrived, we found that the ward that wanted the devotional had decided to put it on hold for now.  However, we were able to see how this stake held their committee meeting and were able to give some input.  This stake has just called an African member to be on the committee to help the large number of Africans who have arrived in their region.  Accordingly it was decided that Self-Reliance groups can be offered to these members on Tuesday evenings.  We were able to offer some suggestions and left some tools from our "Tool Box".

We also made arrangements this week to begin our next sessions of My Plan for Returned Missionaries.  We have two missionaries that have recently returned.  We will begin with them this Wednesday.

We also spent time this week in preparation for our trip to Cape Verde next month.  We will assist our Publishing Services Department while they film some follow-up and new videos about self-reliance participants.  We also followed-up on a few items from our trip to England.

We took a break on Wednesday to participate in our quarterly Zone Conference for the Europe Area senior missionaries.  Some of the missionaries that are nearing the end of their mission and our zone leader, Elder Proctor, shared some thoughts about the different Attributes of Christ form Preach My Gospel.  We then heard from Sister Johnson and Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Area Presidency.   Elder Johnson taught us that Christlike Attributes are gifts from God and helped us to understand that they come when we put forth our best efforts and ask for them, then we receive them by His Grace.  He shared a story of his great grandfather and his family who suffered many trials.  He emphasized the scripture in 1 Nephi 20:10, "For behold, I have refined thee I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction".  He noted that The Lord refines us and The Lord chooses us in the furnace of affliction.  As always, we left the conference well fed spiritually.  We were also well fed temporally with a nice luncheon.

Photo taken at Zone Conference of Senior missionaries with Elder and Sister Johnson (front and center)

After the meeting in Heidelberg on Friday evening, we chose to stay the night in Heidelberg and spend some time on Saturday (Elder Rueckert's Birthday) visiting the castle and old town region of this historical city.  We started with a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant on Friday night.

Dinner for two, pork and turkey schnitzels and pork loin and sides.  More than we could eat together.

On Saturday, the weather was the best we have seen for some months.  The sun was out and it was a beautiful day to see some sights.  The following are photos and commentary on this beautiful city.

Heidelberg is a city near the western borders of Germany with France.  Historic sites in this location date back to 500 B.C. and was a location of the Roman Empire.  The oldest documented reference to the name of Heidelberg was in 1196.  By 1303 there is mention of an "upper" fort and a "lower" fort.  In 1386 a university was founded, the oldest university in Germany.  This was the location of a visit by Martin Luther in 1518 to defend his 95 Thesis.

In 1537 a gunpowder explosion destroyed the upper castle and the duke's palace was built at the lower castle.  The castle was the focus of many kings and battles over the next 200 years.  It was finally destroyed in 1693 by the French army. It was later reconstructed but in 1764 it was hit by lightning and destroyed by fire.

Since then it has been famous as a ruined castle, symbol of better days.

We started at a parking spot near the old site of the upper castle took a train down to the lower castle and later to the city.

Photo of the city from the castle, including the Old Bridge over the River Neckar.

Looking over the city from the castle wall
 In a tour we saw replicas of the castle before it had been destroyed and after:

Model of the castle before the 1693 destruction
Model of the current castle

Outside of one of the entrances to the courtyard.  This was a birthday present of King Frederick V to his wife Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James I of England

The inside of the castle courtyard

Western portion of castle destroyed by the French.  The moat on the left was never filled with water, but was a storage of live  cattle and boars who were shot for sport and served in dinners in the castle.

 Parts of the inside of the castle are still intact, including some large barrels that were used to store wine.  The peasants all paid one tenth of their harvest of wine which was given to the castle and stored in these containers.

Small barrel that stored about 120,000 liters of wine

The world's largest wine barrel, holding 221,000 liters of wine (58,000 gallons). 

This is the pump on the upper floor that was used to pump the wine up to the dining area, including a gigantic ballroom.  The man was our tour guide.

After touring the castle, we took the train down to the old town with some great views of the castle above.

View of the castle from the city below

View from the "Old Bridge"

Shows the "Old Bridge", built in 1788 out of stone, castle in the background

Entrance to the "Old Town" from the "Old Bridge"

Lindt Chocolate store in the "Old Town"

View of the Castle from our parking area above

Close up view of the castle from above

After our visit to Heidelberg, we returned home and received a visit from Elder and Sister Hacking, who delivered a birthday cupcake to Elder Rueckert.  We finished my birthday celebration with the cupcake and some ice cream.