Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Beginning of the End

A stay at home week in Frankfurt, celebrating the 4th of July and transitioning responsibilities to Miguel Adriano, our Self-Reliance Operations manager.

At our 4th of July celebration with Senior Missionaries.  An opportunity to wear my Pittsburgh Pirates baseball jersey.

Our week really starts on Sunday afternoon.  Last Sunday afternoon we decided to work at the area office.  This works much better if we are doing family history work.  We have multiple large screens to help us identify family history information from our photos of old parish records, either from the books or from microfilm.  Another advantage is that there is air conditioning in the area office, making it more comfortable to work.  While there, one of our senior missionary friends took this photo of us.

Sister Rueckert updating Family Search with information from our recent visits.  Elder Rueckert finishing our weekly blog.
Monday was a normal work day.  We had a good visit with a new missionary couple in Greece.  We were very impressed with how much they knew in a short time.  They had just arrived the previous week and had received the assignment to add Self-Reliance to their responsibilities.  We were also able to get caught up on things with our Area Manager, Tom King.  We had not seen each other for over a week as he had been away on vacation visiting his new granddaughter.

As we often do, we had our Monday night meal from the Chicken Man.  He sells fresh rotisserie chicken at a location near us every Monday evening.

Rotisserie Chicken, always tasty, inexpensive and quick
On Tuesday we had a farewell luncheon with our Administrative Assistant, Constanza, and a welcoming luncheon with Jenny, her replacement.  Constanza will be leaving in the next few weeks to have her first baby.  Jennifer has been working with the translation department. She is on temporary assignments since the Frankfurt temple has been closed.  We believe she will work out very well with us.
Special luncheon, Constanza, second from the right.  Jennifer, third from the right.
Tuesday was the 4th of July, but of course it was a normal workday here.  We did have our monthly family home evening moved to this evening to celebrate the 4th with the other senior missionaries.  It was a wonderful dinner with amazing American food, including hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beens, root beer floats and many salad and dessert options.

Sample view of our 4th of July meal
Cooks were Elder Swenson and Elder Garrett

After the meal we heard a message from Elder Gary B. Sabin of the Seventy who was there with his wife.  Among his thoughts, he shared an amazing missionary story that had been shared by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland the previous week in the mission presidents seminar.  It is an amazing missionary story, so we are including a copy of the story here for any who have not heard it.  This comes from an article in the Deseret News

Elder Holland closed by relating a story — being careful to protect the privacy and anonymity of the participants — of a young man from southern Idaho. One night the young man stormed out of the house and set off to join an infamous motorcycle gang. He succeeded in that resolve and for 20 years became immersed in a culture “of temptations yielded to and degradations explored,” never contacting his parents, who feared that he was dead.

Eventually ending up in Southern California, he one day was sitting on the porch of a rented home when he saw two LDS missionaries making their way up the street.
“With a rush of memory and guilt, regret and rage, he despised the very sight of them,” Elder Holland recounted. “But he was safe, because he kept all visitors at bay by employing two Doberman Pinschers who viciously charged the gate every moment that anyone came near.”
The dogs startled the missionaries as they passed by and continued on, “our man on the porch laughing at the lovely little drama he had just witnessed, wishing only that the gate hadn’t restrained his two dogs.”
Then, the two elders stopped, looked at each other, conversed a little, “likely said a silent prayer,” then turned around and approached the gate.

“The Dobermans on cue charged the gate again, hit it, snarling, frothing, and then stopped in their tracks,” Elder Holland said. “They looked at the missionaries, dropped their heads, ambled back to the front steps and lay down.”
The man on the porch was speechless as the missionaries opened the gate, walked up the path and greeted him.
“One of the elders said, ‘Are you from this part of California?’
“The man said, ‘No. If you want to know, I’m from Pocatello, Idaho.’
“There was a pause. ‘That’s interesting,’ the elder said. ‘Do you know the [such-and-such] family in Pocatello?’
“With a stunned look, our biker paused, and then, in very measured words, said, ‘Yeah, I know them. They are my parents.’
“ ‘Well, they’re my parents too,’ the missionary said. ‘God has sent me to invite you to come home.’ ”
The younger brother had been born after the older boy had left home. The elder brother did not even know of him.
“Mom and Dad have been praying for you every morning and night for 20 years,” the younger brother said. “They were not sure you were alive, but they knew if you were, that someday you would come back to us.”
The wayward son invited the two in, and they talked for the rest of the day and some of the night. He did return home, returned to Church activity and, in March 2015, was married and sealed in the Boise Idaho Temple.
Commenting on the account, Elder Holland said, “This is a story of the role of Almighty God, the Savior of the World, and the Holy Ghost involved in the work of the ministry to which we’ve been called.
“The Holy Ghost prompted those parents to keep praying, to keep believing, to keep trusting. … The Holy Ghost inspired that rebellious boy to come to himself like the prodigal he was and to head for California. … The Holy Ghost influenced that younger son to serve a mission and be willing to accept a call to Southern California. … The Holy Ghost inspired one of my brethren in the Twelve, who was on the assignment desk that Friday, to trust his impression and assign that young man for service not a great distance from his native-born state. The Holy Ghost inspired that mission president to assign that young missionary to that district and that member unit. The Holy Ghost led those missionaries to that street, that day, that hour, with big brother sitting on the porch waiting, and, with Doberman Pinschers notwithstanding, the Holy Ghost prompted those two elders to stop, talk and in spite of their fear, to go back and present their message. …
“And, through the elders, the Holy Ghost taught repentance and brought true conversion to one coming back into the fold.”
Elder Holland said the young elder, without realizing it, gave the missionary speech of all time, when he said to his brother, “God has sent me here to invite you to come home.”
“We are sent by God to invite His children home,” Elder Holland concluded. “We do that through the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, on the strength of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Welcome to the divine companionship.”
Elder Gary B. Sabin addressing the senior missionaries on the 4th of July
After the meal we were treated to a sing-a-long of patriotic and other music, accompanied by Elder Steineckert, on the guitar.

All of the missionaries, being led by Elder Burt, who is charge of family home evenings

Elder and Sister Steineckert

We spent most of the remainder of the week working with Miguel Adriano, our Self-Reliance Operations manager.  He is based in Lisbon, Portugal and came to Frankfurt to help transition to new responsibilities.  He will assume the direct responsibility for quarterly reporting to Priesthood Leaders which has been done by Elder Rueckert and Constanza.  We had a few meetings that also included Constanza's husband, Kiever, who has supported this quarterly reporting process with technology expertise.  On Thursday we (with Thomas King)  spent time preparing for our 2018 budgeting cycle.  This has been done by Elder Rueckert in the past and is now also being passed on to Miguel.  While Miguel was with us we also took time to make preliminary plans for the agenda of our annual seminar that will be held in October.

All in all, we had three very productive days with Miguel.  These are all necessary steps that need to be made before we complete our mission.

On Friday afternoon we had our farewell Zoom conference with Elder and Sister Neiswender who will be completing their SR mission in Portugal in a few weeks.  They have become some of our dearest friends.  The good news is that they live in Sandy, Utah so we will certainly be able to continue our friendship with them after our mission.

One more blessing this week:

We have been using a debit card from Charles Schwab Bank during our mission.  It has been accepted most everywhere and with it we are able to get funds in any currency from ATMs where we travel without paying any fees.  One problem is that this card expires this month.  We called earlier in the year to see if they could send a new card before my mother visited and we were told that they could not.  They also told us that the card had to be mailed to our home address.  So we waited for the card to be mailed at the end of June.  Two weeks ago, after finding that no card had been sent we called Schwab.  They told us that the card had erroneously been missed in their updates but that they would have a new card to our home on an express delivery by Tuesday, July 4.  

Since my brother Rob is coming to visit this week, we thought that he could bring it with him.  We called my mother on Thursday to confirm that she had received the card and she had not.  We called Schwab again and they told us that it had been sent by regular mail the night before our previous phone call and should be arriving any day.  The other complication was that the street in front of our condominium is being ripped up and replaced and is not currently allowing traffic to our mail box.  We were afraid that the postal service could not deliver the mail.  On Friday, we talked again to my mother who prayed and than found help in the neighborhood to find our debit cards.  A neighbor helped her out, called the post office and took her there to pick up the cards which were in their possession.  The next morning Rob stopped by our condo and picked up the cards on his way to the airport.  

There were a few other options, but none of them as simple as this one.  We are thankful for the help and inspiration of my mother and look forward to the visit of my brother.

Another Pigeon Update:

Last week we declared ourselves pigeon free.  However, they keep coming back to visit.  Sister Rueckert keeps finding one on the ledge and one on the floor of the balcony before she shews them away.  We have added plastic forks to our flower boxes to discourage their visits.  On Saturday, we found them building a nest in our large tomato plant on the bottom of the balcony.  Once again we chased them out.  On Saturday afternoon we purchased a pigeon resistant plastic black crow and installed it in our flower box.  Two hours later we found the pigeon sitting on an egg in the tomato plant.  Hopefully it will work better in the future.  We disposed of the egg, our third to dispose of in the past few weeks.

Our new plastic Black Crow to scare off the pigeons

Pigeon and egg in our large tomato plant