Sunday, May 28, 2017


May has been a month of change for us.  It was the first month this year in which we did not get on a plane.  Almost all of our missionary assignment related travel revolves around training new Welfare couples.  During the first half of our mission we traveled five times.  During the first four months of this year we traveled ten times.  And during the last four months of our mission we have another five trips scheduled.  So we have really enjoyed being home this month.

Earlier this month Daniel Kopischke joined the Welfare Department as a part-time accounting employee.  Daniel is taking care of paying bills and writing journal entries for the Department.  This change will bring consistency to the payment process role which in the past has been handled by senior missionaries.  Perhaps those most pleased that Daniel is now with us are our replacements Elder James and Sister Marlene Lindsay. Hearing how much of my (Russell) time was previously taken up with accounting work was not a great recruiting line.

Last Sunday the Paris temple was dedicated.  Since Thursday of this week was a holiday in Germany (Ascension Day), we decided to take the opportunity to attend the Paris temple on Friday.  It took longer than we expected to drive there and back consuming most of Thursday and Saturday but Friday made it all worth it.

It is interesting how God answers my prayers.  Recently I have been asking for patience – with a lot of things.  Those who know me best are aware of just how much I love driving in large cities during rush hour.  Our drive to Paris on Thursday was rather uneventful.  But on the short drive Friday morning to the temple I experienced one of those patience building experiences; a test I once again did not pass without challenge.  On our way home on Saturday, somewhere between Rheims and the German border in beautiful rural France, I glanced down at the gas meter and discovered our car was near empty. By the time we finally found a gas station in a little town we were riding on fumes.  In France many gas stations are totally automated with no personnel there.  The machines do not take cash or any credit cards which require a signature.  I had both cash and a credit card but not the prepaid gas cards the French use.  Eileen, speaking in French, found a woman who was willing to help us.  We paid her 50 Euros for 40 Euros worth of gas and never felt better about it!  For me it was a lesson in both patience and humility, in appreciation for my good wife and her patience with me, and in gratitude for a French woman who was willing to help us.  Afterwards both Eileen and I were saying prayers of thanks to God for helping us get out of that mess of my own making.

Eileen's sister Chris and Eileen outside the temple

Eileen and Russell in front of the Christus statue
Russell looking at the model of the temple in the visitor's center

Stained glass window in the visitor's center

Paris Temple

Sign identifying the temple

Inside the temple in the celestial room-photo courtesy of Mormon newsroom
Spiral staircase-photo from Mormon newsroom

Beautiful stained glass windows are throughout the temple-photo courtesy of Mormon newsroom
Beautiful stained glass window-photo courtesy of Mormon newsroom

This beautiful window rises above a spiral staircase made of marble-photo courtesy of Mormon newsroom


We visited the city of Rothenburg, it was founded in 970 A.D.  In 1241 the first fortified rings of the city were built.
The old city wall at Rothenburg

The Kathie Wohlfart store sells all things for Christmas

Inside the Kathie Wohlfart store. It seems to be Christmas all year long
The view across the valley just at dusk.

 We visited Nuremburg.  There was a museum that was fascinating discussing the rise of Naziism in Germany. We spent several hours there.
Add caption

Chris listening to the tapes of  Hitler talking to the masses
You don't see these cars often

Chris and I went to Versailles for just a few minutes. We saw the crowds, the price and the guards and decided against staying.

Guards in front of Versailles, the palace of King Louis the 14th
Versailles gardens
Rheims cathedral

Rheims cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows

There was a huge bike race leaving from the Cathedral the day we were there

Statue of Joan of Arc outside the cathedral

Sunday, May 21, 2017


This past Wednesday we had zone conference for the senior missionaries who serve in the Europe Area Office.  We have zone conferences three or four times each year.  When missionaries are getting close to being released and going home we usually have the opportunity to hear from them and learn of some of their experiences during their mission. This conference we heard from five senior missionaries who spoke to us. 

Elder and Sister Malcom have been serving with the Records Preservation department. Their mission has involved obtaining records (birth, death, baptism) from throughout Europe and digitizing them.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use family history records to perform sacred temple ordinances; such as baptisms, eternal marriages and sealing of children to parents; for deceased family members who were unable to perform the rites themselves during their lifetimes. This gives deceased ancestors the opportunity to accept and benefit from these ordinances.

Elder and Sister Jensen have been serving as Area Legal Counsel and Senior Missionary Concierge.  Elder Jensen is one of several missionary attorneys in Frankfurt making sure that everything the church does in the Europe Area is legally sound.  Sister Jensen has helped new missionaries become familiar with shopping, restaurants, and the metro system.

Sister Lovell has been working with individuals who have accepted loans from the Perpetual Education Fund. The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) loan program helps members of the Church of all ages get an education that leads to a self-reliant job. Most of those she has dealt with started the program in a developing country and have moved to Europe after the loan was initiated.

Listening to Elder and Sister Sabin speak was the highlight of the zone conference. Elder Sabin is a Seventy and a counselor in the Area Presidency.  Sister Sabin spoke about recently being in Berlin and told the story of "Hal" Halverson, a former pilot in the United States Air Force.   He is best known as the "Berlin Candy Bomber" who dropped candy to children during the Berlin airlift from 1948 to 1949.  What started just as giving two sticks of gum to a few children mushroomed into literally tones of candy being dropped by airplanes for the children of Berlin.  Sister Sabin reminded us that many times we cannot foresee the wonderful long-term effects of our current efforts.

Elder Sabin addressed the importance of always reaching out to those around us. He said everyone has problems, most of them we just can’t see.  Perhaps saying hello to someone or finding something good about them and sharing it with them could make a total change in their day. Elder Sabin also talked to us about our families we have left while serving missions.  He said he believes that angels are sent to look after and help our loved-ones while we are away, particularly during their most difficult times.

Elder Sabin also fielded questions from the senior missionaries.  In answer to the question, “What do you think is the greatest problem confronting the Church today?” he said it was the lack of commitment on the part of most Church members.  He reminded us of his recent talk in General Conference, Stand Up Inside and Be All In (April, 2017), view talk at link below.  His talk caused me (Russell) to think even more carefully about what I should be doing following our release from this mission in the fall. 

Our zone of senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Sabin are in the middle of the front row
Russell and I talking with Elder Sabin

Eileen and her sister Chris who is visiting