Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pioneers Then and Now

Our week ended with our 3rd annual Pioneer Day 5 K walk/run.  It was a great success and helped us have a little more appreciation for the 1,718 K trek that the pioneers experienced 170 years ago.  In contrast, ours took less than an hour, theirs took 110 days.

Participants in our annual Pioneer 5K walk/run
Our week began in Innsbruck, Austria where we spent the previous weekend.  The photo below shows the cloudless view from our hotel.  The challenges that we had with clouds and rain were now history as we left for home.

View from our hotel on the other side of the street
We left early in the morning so that we could go home through Liechtenstein.  This is a small country in between Austria and Switzerland.  We didn't do anything other than fill up with gas. However, it did add one more country to the list of those we have now visited.  The scenery around Liechtenstein is very similar to Austria.

Entry into the country of Liechtenstein
Our trip to Liechtenstein should have taken around two hours.  It took a little longer because the Arlberg Tunnel was closed for maintenance.  This tunnel is 13,976 meters long (over 8 miles), the longest in Austria. We did okay going over the mountain instead of through it, but it took us an additional 45 minutes.  It only took us a little over 4 hours for the stretch from Liechtenstein to Frankfurt.  

Traveling in Germany is amazing.  The roads are almost always straight, with minimal incline or decline.  Where there are valleys, they build a bridge.  When there is a mountain, they build a tunnel.  The following photos are of just one of the smaller tunnels and bridges that we encountered.  However, they are representative of the amazing road system in Germany.

Tunnel through a small hill in Germany
Driving in a tunnel for a long time

Bridge built over a valley.  No water involved, just avoiding the ups and downs of a valley
Perhaps the biggest challenge on the highways is the constantly changing speed limits  We go from Autobahn speeds (unlimited) to slow downs for tunnels, construction zones or for reasons beyond our understanding.  One of our senior missionaries shared this in a  cartoon that he created.  With his permission I include the cartoon here:

We arrived back home in time to go into the office and make last minute preparations for our monthly senior missionary devotional.  This month we were privileged to have Armin Cziesla speak to us about the conditions in Germany at the end of World War II.  He is the father of our Stake President and one of the German Pioneers of the post World War II era.

Armin was 7 years old in 1944 when the war was winding down.  His mother, who was a member of the Church since 1926 chose to move her family out of East Prussia (currently Poland) to Western Germany.  They wanted to be where the U.S. troops were dominating and not where the Soviet troops were already occupying. The Soviets were already controlling the passage through this territory, so it took creative efforts to be able to relocate.

During this time and throughout the war, Armin's father was in the German army stationed in Norway.  His wife constantly communicated with him during their ordeal, so he knew where his family was.  Armin told us many stories of how his mother would sing Church hymns to him and his older sister and pray with them to ask for the blessings of heaven.  He told of the many ordeals that they endured to get around the Soviet troops.  It took them almost three months, with little to eat and only what they could carry with them.  When they finally arrived in Northern Germany, they stayed with a farmer, in his barn.  After some time there, their father found them in that very barn.

Only ten years later, in 1956, did Armin happen to see a building with the name of our Church on it.  He recognized it from what his mother had told hime so many years before.  Once they were reunited with the Church, Armin, his sister, and his father all were baptized.  He told of other faith promoting experiences of his wife, who also joined the Church above the objections of her parents.  Armin ended up serving a full-time mission in 1962 and later served as a patriarch and the president of the Frankfurt Temple.

We were extremely blessed by the sharing of his experiences and his testimony.  There are not many eye witnesses to the challenges of World War II left.  What a blessing to all of us to listen to his words.

Armin Cziesla, German Pioneer
On Tuesday we held our July/August team meeting with our SRS Managers.  Our main topic was that of reporting to Stake Presidents and Area 70s.  The opinions of our managers are always diverse and they are not bashful in sharing their thoughts.  After hearing the different thoughts, we spent time to put together a survey of thoughts on reporting moving forward.  So far, the responses continue to show diversity.  Our manager, Tom King, will try to sort all of this out and see the best solution for reporting going forward.

We continued to meet individually with several missionary couples this week, worked on our operating budgets (due next week) and continued efforts to help find more unemployed leaders jobs in Southern Spain.  This has now included the best thinking of the SLC team to find better solutions in the coming months.  

On Tuesday night we had our last German session with Sister Peterson in Provo. We have decided that we will continue to work on our German skills.  We hope to return to Germany on a family history trip after our mission.  It also feels good as we understand more and more.  We believe that it is good for our minds to keep learning new things.

Sister Rueckert has an assignment to teach the young women how to make her famous Chocolate Chip cookies next week.  She has been practicing with the oven in the Area Office so that she will be familiar with the setting.  On Friday, she spent some time practicing and then shared three plates of cookies with the employees and missionaries on our floor (and some on other floors).  Each time a plate of cookies went out, they disappeared almost instantly. This photo is of the remaining crumb on the last plate we set out.

Friday was also the two year mark since we moved to Frankfurt to begin this wonderful experience.

During the week we were also making final plans for our annual 5K race for senior missionaries.  With a new mission president, the young missionaries were not invited.  Employees only received an invite earlier in the week.  However we were prepared for better or for worse.  The photo below is of the trophy that Sister Rueckert prepared.  It is made of a hand made pottery that we had received, adorned in bright aluminum foil.

  I had been training on this course for some time and had run the course on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  My fastest time was 26 minutes and 40 seconds.  We arranged for course guides to avoid anyone getting lost.  We set out the markers and bought oranges and water for the finish line.

On Saturday morning the time for the event finally arrived.   It had rained throughout the night before but had stopped in time for the race, giving us perfect weather conditions (no rain and about 70 degrees Fahrenheit).  Over 20 senior missionaries and 3 employees participated. 

We felt like the event was a success.  We received positive feedback from many of the missionaries. Elder Healy took a wrong turn and he was guided back on the course by Elder Stay, our bicycle guide.  Photos below are from this even:
Pre race instructions and a tribute to our pioneer forefathers

Photos together at the starting line

The race begins, Elder Rueckert off to an early lead.

Elder Garrett (in the middle) making his move

Others walking at varying speeds
Elder Garrett and I ran side by side for more than half of the race, but he was running at a faster pace than I was prepared for and so I dropped back.  I finished at 25 minutes and 50 seconds and in 2nd place.  This was still almost one minute faster than I had run during the week.  As an official measurement, the course was measured at 2.83 miles, a little short of an official 5 K.

Elder Rueckert finishing all alone in 2nd place, a minute and 20 seconds behind Elder Garrett

Gold, Silver and Bronze.  Coraline took third place and 1st among employees.

Sister Rueckert handing out the 1st place trophy
 Each of the first three finishers also received a jar of our home made strawberry jam.  I had to finish in the top three so that we could have some jam back for our enjoyment.

The day ended up with intermittent light rains  In the afternoon we captured this beautiful rainbow from our balcony.  It reminds us always of the watchful care of our Heavenly Father.

Just a little gardening update.  We are now harvesting tomatoes and peppers.  The photos below are of one of our tomato plants on our balcony and one of our pepper plants.

Tomato plant on the floor of our balcony.

Unique green peppers growing,  We fear that they be the hot variety.

Today, on Sunday, we enjoyed our sabbath meetings.  We love our ward and our ward members.  We receive much inspiration from them.  Today we started our Portuguese Sunday School My Foundation Only Self-Reliance course.  There were only 4 of us in total, but the spirit was strong and the time uplifting.  We also received notice from a member who has finished the finance self-reliance course in our ward.  She has a brother-in-law in Munich who wants to participate in the same opportunities.  This word of mouth will continue to help this work move faster throughout Europe.   Our new missionary couple for Germany will have plenty opportunities to help.  We also have several missionaries returning in the ward, beginning this week.  They appear to be perfect candidates for some of our self-reliance groups.  Much to do, without going too far!