Sunday, September 24, 2017

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

It has been a wonderful and eventful week.  Elder and Sister Lindsay arrived last Saturday. Spending the last week with them brings back many fond memories of our time serving as senior missionaries together in the LDS Church Office Building.  We love them dearly and it has been wonderful seeing how quickly they have picked up all that we have tried to teach them.  Russell and I both have a sense of ownership in our callings.  We feel like we have invested heavily in trying to improve the processes within the office, our relationships with the humanitarian couples we serve, and with the charitable work done here in Europe by LDS Charities. Sometimes when you are heavily invested in your work, it can become a challenge to turn the work over to others. That has not been the case in our situation here, as we can know that the Lindsays are well qualified with wonderful ideas regarding welfare work. We have spent the last week teaching them all that we do. It has been busy.Tomorrow morning, the transition with humanitarian work will be complete and they will take over.  We have complete confidence in them and are so grateful for their willingness to serve their 4th mission as a couple together. We know that their calling and the events that led to their being called to this position was inspired.

We had our final zone conference on Wednesday, with Elder Massimo De Feo of the Seventy attending.  Elder De Feo recently started his service in the Europe Area Presidency. At the zone conference the 5 senior missionary couples who are being released in the next month were asked to speak .  I (Eileen), will post our talks on another blog posting so that this posting does not get too lengthy.

The meeting was very uplifting with a wonderful spirit. The Swensons spoke of some of their experiences serving as the Young Single Adult advisors in Europe. They have done a significant amount of traveling.  It is a good thing they are young and energetic.  Elder Burt spoke about how the promptings of the Holy Ghost have helped him meet the needs of the missionaries he serves as the Area Medical Advisor.  Sister Burt was unable to attend the meeting but will speak later in the month.  The Hackings bore a very sweet testimony sharing their tender feelings about the bitter passing of their daughter Sarah.  The Savior’s atonement has helped them through this difficult time. The Hackings have been serving in various missionary capacities for the last 12 years. They are now going to spend some time at home helping their family heal from their daughter’s passing.  The Proctors spoke of their efforts to help the church become better known in Europe. They serve in the Publishing Services Department and have helped develop country web pages where news of the church is listed.  They have also served tirelessly as our zone leaders, and have been a huge help to all of the senior missionaries, not just meeting spiritual needs, but also temporal needs. The Proctors were very influential in helping us get a dryer after 9 months in the field. We appreciate the association with all of the senior missionaries here in the Area Office, and will miss them greatly.  Elder De Feo also gave a beautiful talk directed to the many senior missionaries who are concerned about their children or other family situations.  He knows of family struggles associated with service. After he was called to be a General Authority he started talking with his 10 year old daughter about the possibility of moving.  His daughter cried any time they discussed the issue.  With time, the Lord blessed her with the peace she needed to make the move. Elder De Feo also related the stories of the Savior and the miracles of raising the daughter of Jairus and Lazarus from the dead. He posed the question to us:  If the Savior can raise the dead, can he not heal our family members?  There are several among our group who have challenges at home. It was a blessing to hear his great testimony and many tears were shed.

 Friday we had the wonderful blessing of adding a new grandchild to our family.  We have earnestly prayed throughout the pregnancy that all would be well with the baby and mother.  There had been some complications throughout the pregnancy. We were so concerned that we would not be able to be there to help this family.  We heard of the safe arrival of the baby in the middle of the night. Both Russell and I fell to our knees in gratitude to God for this tender mercy.  We return home later this week. We are looking forward to seeing all of our family members, including a new grand baby.

At church on Sunday I was released as the primary pianist.  I have loved being with the children in our ward.  I was asked to come into primary both in the junior and senior sharing time. I was told the children were asking why I was not there.  The children sang a goodbye song to me and I was given a hand sewn tote bag with some stenciling on it (Without music life would be flat).   This was a sweet moment for me.  Playing the piano in primary has been something that is very simple for me. I didn’t think anyone even noticed I was there. I sit at the piano bench in the corner by the door each Sunday, quietly minding my own business.  I also try and talk with the children, but do so in the hallway so as to not disturb primary.  It was very gratifying to know that I will be missed.

Elder Massimo De Feo
Russell consulting with Elder Lindsay
Eileen and Sister Lindsay trying to learn the ropes

Sister Lindsay taking over Eileen's desk

Our new grand baby, just a few hours old
Eileen with primary tote given to me
Elder Lindsay took this interesting shot of the area office.
Elder and Sister Lindsay with the Healys
The view from our balcony. We overlook the area office and the church

Elder Lindsay shared his amazing photography skills with us
Sister Lindsay checking out the produce
Another Elder Lindsay photo-we will be in Utah soon!



ZONE CONFERENCE TALKS

Eileen's talk in zone conference:

Last week we had our exit interview with Elder Sabin.  He asked us what we would take away from this mission. As I have pondered this question I believe there are three main subjects I have gained a greater appreciation for on this mission.  1) A love for the temple with a desire to attend regularly 2) A deep love and appreciation for the humanitarian couples serving in the field 3) A gratitude for being able to serve as missionary companions with my good husband.

We had only been serving in Frankfurt for a couple of weeks when Elder and Sister Rueckert asked us if we would like to join them in going to the LDS temple in Switzerland. We had much to do and Russell initially declined. However, we both decided that this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up and we were willing to work late before and after the trip to make up for lost time. We were grateful for the opportunity. We performed multiple ordinances that day, done in several different languages.

I mentioned to Elder and Sister Rueckert that my father had lived in Basel as a toddler while his father was serving as mission president for the Swiss/German mission. They suggested that we look for the house he lived in almost 90 years ago. On our return trip to Frankfurt we stopped in Basel. The day we stopped happened to be my father’s 92nd birthday. Although the mission home my father lived in is no longer standing, there were many homes in the neighborhood with dates on the door jams going back to the late 1800s.  It was a remarkable experience to walk the streets which my father and grandparents walked so many decades ago. During that trip, I caught the vision of temple work and family history. I determined that I would be more committed about going to the temple and performing the work for family members.  Since that time, we have been on a number of  temple trips. It is expensive, time consuming and many times inconvenient to go to the temple from Frankfurt. However, it has truly been worth the sacrifice. I have developed a great love for temple work. I find peace in the temple that it is sometimes difficult to find in our day to day endeavors.  I have had some wonderful spiritual experiences with the veil being very thin while in the temple.

Two weeks ago, we traveled with the Garretts to the temple.  I had a number of family names found by my sister which needed ordinance work completed. We scheduled a time to do initiatory work. I had 17 female names which needed the initiatory work done.  As Sister Garrett and I went in with my family names, we were told by the supervisor that there would be a maximum of 5 names/person.  We sorted through the names and tried to keep families together, leaving out 7 of the names which the supervisor had originally pulled out to be done.  After 4 of my 5 names had been completed I asked the temple worker if it would be possible to do a few more names. She told me that was not possible, and said we were lucky to have been able to do the names which we had already done. I agreed and thanked her. As I was leaving to go back to my locker the supervisor asked if I had more names to be done.  I showed her the remaining cards.  She said that one of the workers needed to leave, but she would be willing to help so that we could do more initiatory work.  When Sister Garrett came out of the booth and saw me waiting to go in she was surprised.  I told her that we would be able to finish the remaining names. She was grateful. She said she had felt an immense sadness thinking that the sisters whose name were originally in the pile had been pulled out. Perhaps they were disappointed that their work wouldn’t be done that day.  While I performed the initiatory work for these remaining sisters the veil was very thin. As I did 2 of the remaining 4 sisters, the feelings I had were almost overwhelming. I knew they were aware the work was being done for them and were grateful. The temple worker which had initially told me I would not be able to do the remaining names said to me “there is something really special about those sisters, I can feel it.” 

What a blessing it has been to go to the House of the Lord.  I recognize that it is a special privilege, as most missionaries cannot leave their mission boundaries. We have been granted a special opportunity by the Area Presidency to attend the temple, of which I am most grateful for.

In our humanitarian work we use the word beneficiary.  A beneficiary is a person who gains an advantage and/or profits from something. In our position as Area Welfare Specialists we do not directly work with the individuals ultimately receiving help from LDS Charities. Rather, the true beneficiaries of our work are the 15 senior missionary couples throughout the Europe Area.  I consider these missionaries our friends. We communicate with the missionaries by email and by telephone on a regular basis. If you were to blindfold me and have one of them say hello to me, I would know who I was speaking to, just by hearing the voice. If I were to look at a writing sample of a project without any identifying information, I would know who wrote the project, just by the writing style.

We are concerned for and pray for these couples. Having served a humanitarian mission in Indonesia, we can relate to their loneliness, the challenge it is in sometimes finding good NGO partners, and the struggle it is to get adjusted to a new language and culture. It can oftentimes be very challenging. Although we have a myriad of responsibilities in our calling, the one I consider to be most meaningful is the moral support we give to our humanitarian couples.  I am grateful that we have been able to establish a meaningful relationship with them.  We have told the couples that if they ever need to vent to please call or email. There have been many times I have slipped out of the office to go to our apartment in order to have a private conversation with a senior sister missionary.  I am very grateful for these relationships, and hope that in some small way I have made their mission an easier place to serve.

The third matter which I would like to share my feelings about is my good companion and husband. We recently celebrated our 39th anniversary. We realized that we had spent our last six anniversaries in the mission field. It is going to be strange to take off my missionary badge and no longer be serving together as missionaries.  I love him and appreciate the patience and guidance he has shown me during our missions and hope that we can be directed to what the Lord would have us do.



Russell's talk in zone conference:

Our role during this mission as Area Welfare Specialists basically involves assisting Welfare/Humanitarian missionary couples serving in 15 location around Europe.  Mostly they are in the countries of Central and SE Europe, and also in Cape Verde.  We don’t initiate or implement the humanitarian projects or meet the beneficiaries.  We just teach, coach and support those who do.

About a quarter of our mission has been spent going to visit the new couples shortly after they arrive in the field.  We help them get their technology working, acquaint them with the Humanitarian computer program, train them on keeping track and reporting of Humanitarian finances, and teach them about the different types of Humanitarian projects and their various requirements.  On our visits we have also tried to introduce them to local NGOs who might make good project partners.  Foremost, we tried to establish a friendship with the couple that would allow us to continue supporting them from Frankfurt during the other three quarters of our time here.

As I look back on my missionary experience, I find the things that I will treasure the most are my relationships with three individuals or groups of individuals.  The first is my relationship with the missionary couples with whom I serve; primarily those that I serve on a daily basis.  Second is my relationship with my eternal companion.  And most important is my relationship with God.  I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to serve on this mission and build or strengthen these relationships.

In addition to helping our humanitarian couples develop good projects, assisting them with their computer challenges and resolving financial issues, we spend a lot of time lending moral support.  Our couples often serve in locations where isolation is a major concern.  Many times they just need someone to talk to who has been thorough a similar mission experience that can just listen.  I have grown to love those couples that I have served; and I have found joy in seeing their success and happiness.

When we entered the MTC for our third time, our instructor asked what we hoped to achieve during our time there.  My answer was to emerge with my wife having had a good experience and being happy with me as her companion.  Seeing my wife happy in her service as a missionary has been a top priority for me. Working with her as an equal partner in our calling has been a pleasure.  I have truly enjoyed studying the Book of Mormon with her.  I will always treasure our early morning walks in the graveyard and bike rides along the Nidda River together.  I am going home with a better relationship with my spouse, and for that I am truly grateful.

In 3 Nephi 27:13 Jesus tells us that, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father.”  And then in verse 21 he states, “and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.“ 

My primary goal during this mission has been to submit my will to that of my Father-in-Heaven; a goal that I have failed at again and again over the last year-and-a-half.  My time here has helped me see my weaknesses more clearly, my murmuring and trusting in my own understanding.  Yet in my failing I seem to have grown closer to my Father-in-Heaven and appreciate more the atonement my Savior Jesus Christ.  I find my motives in attempting to “do good” are less and less to achieve some future reward and more just a desire to try and please Him.

My understanding and testimony of God and my relationship with Him come from four different but complementary perspectives.  First, from a lifetime of personal experiences, most of which are simply recognizing the tender mercies of the Lord in my life and a few of the more life changing variety, I can say that I know that God lives, that he hears and answers my prayers, and that be blesses me far more than I deserve. 

Second, as I view the completeness of God’s Plan of Salvation as revealed through modern day prophets, I find that it fits logically together; although it’s not that I don’t have questions and things that I do not understand.  For me it’s like a puzzle with a few pieces missing, wherein I can still see the big picture. I look forward to the day that I can see the whole picture more clearly, but what I cannot yet see does not dissuade me from that which I can see. 

Third, as one who values practicality I love Christ’s admonition, “by their fruits ye shall know them.”  From personal experience I know that obedience to God’s commandments does help find happiness and us avoid sorrow.  The truth of this gospel does set us free from sin and error, both through helping us avoiding error and allowing us a way back, a way to recover, when we do inevitably sin. 

And then I have the Book of Mormon, a tangible piece of evidence that Joseph Smith is a prophet and a second witness with the Bible that Jesus is the Christ.  All of these things form the basis for my testimony that the work we are about here is God’s work; and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity He has given me to serve as a missionary.
  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

OUR REPLACEMENTS ARRIVE

This past week Russell celebrated his 62nd birthday. He was quite sick most of the week with a bad respiratory infection, so we celebrated by getting take out egg-drop soup from a nearby Chinese restaurant.  Sister Canfield had made him a delicious birthday cake the week before which we were able to share with other office workers. I (Eileen) also made him some oatmeal raisin cookies which are his favorite.

Saturday morning, we picked up Elder and Sister Lindsay from the airport. They will be replacing us when we return back to the U.S.  We were fellow missionaries with the Lindsays on our previous mission. They are a humble, loving couple who are very capable to carry on the humanitarian work here in the Europe Area.  We love them dearly. Yesterday we oriented them to the area, taking them to the store and ATM. Despite being jet lagged, they were willing to spend our dinner hour and travel time discussing our role as Area Welfare Specialists with them.

Today in sacrament meeting I was asked to speak.   I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, but did the best I could under the circumstances. I have attached the talk below.

Eileen’s sacrament meeting talk.

I was asked to speak on a talk, given by Elder Gary Stevenson at the April 2017 general conference entitled How does the Holy Ghost help you”. Elder Stevenson talked about visiting the home of a young family in his neighborhood. While he was there, the family invited him to stay for family home evening, telling him that their nine-year-old son had prepared the lesson.
Following the opening song, prayer, and family business, the nine-year-old began by reading an insightful question included in his handwritten lesson: “How does the Holy Ghost help you?” This question began a meaningful family discussion as everyone shared ideas and insights.
Elder Stevenson highlighted 3 eternal truths of what the Lord has revealed about the Holy Ghost.
First, the Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. We learn this in the first article of faith: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”2
Second, the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, as described in modern scripture: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”3 This means that the Holy Ghost has a spirit body, unlike God the Father and Jesus Christ, who have physical bodies.
Third, the gift of the Holy Ghost comes by the laying on of hands. This ordinance, following baptism, qualifies us for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.5 
Elder Bednar has said:
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead; He is a personage of spirit and bears witness of all truth. In the scriptures, the Holy Ghost is referred to as the Comforter, a teacher, and a revelator. Revelations from the Father and the Son are conveyed through the Holy Ghost. He is the messenger for and the witness of the Father and the Son.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said: The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a “still small voice.”14 And while we speak of “listening” to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, “I had a feeling …” Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. 
I would like to focus my thoughts today on the personal revelation I have received through the Holy Ghost, in our missionary callings.
A little over 6 years ago, we had a stake fireside for all of the high priests and their wives in our home stake. There were a large number of high priests, some with young families some even with wives who were pregnant. In this fireside, our SP requested that we all set a date to be senior missionaries. My husband and I had always wanted to serve a mission together and set a date at that time for a few years out.  Well before our agreed upon date, I had some really strong promptings that we needed to prepare immediately to go on a mission, sooner rather than later. Those feelings did not go away until we actually had our mission papers submitted. We were called to Indonesia as humanitarian missionaries. 
I had a similar experience prior to going on our second and third mission. Serving another mission was something we were not even seriously contemplating.  However, I felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost telling me that the time was right to serve again. I truly believe that all three of our missions, were missions that God wanted us to serve, I just needed to have a little nudging to help me move along in the process.
During our second mission, we served in the missionary department as senior missionary recommenders.
The missionary call process is different for senior missionaries than for young Elders and Sisters. After reviewing all of the applicant’s information, we, and others would make recommendations for possible locations each couple might serve. The couple’s papers would then move forward with multiple recommendations provided, for the Apostle to issue a call.

It was both an honor and a tremendous responsibility to be a recommender for the senior missionaries. There were times that I would read a couple’s papers and it seemed very easy to make recommendations. The ideas just flowed and I felt good about the work that I had done. Other times I seemed to have a real challenge determining where the Lord might have a couple serve. I would think back to the instructions given through Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery.

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 9 vs 8-9 we read:

8) But behold I say unto you that you must study it out in your mind, then you must ask me if it be right and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right.
9) But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.

Every morning and evening in our personal and companionship prayers we would ask for the gift of the Holy Ghost to enlighten our minds that we could be open to inspiration. We would also ask for the gift of wisdom. We considered our calling a sacred responsibility. We felt that the potential missionary couples we worked with were our friends, even though we had never met them.

The first couple I was assigned to work with was fairly easy to make recommendations. The second couple was more difficult.  This couple wanted to serve outside of the United States. Both spoke French and they needed good health care. I thought immediately of France and Tahiti. As the day wore on something seemed wrong. All weekend long I thought about this couple, prayed about them and discussed their situation with Elder Healy. The recommendations I knew seemed appropriate but the location didn’t feel right. I thought I had exhausted all my French speaking foreign options, but then Elder Healy suggested Montreal.  Monday morning, I followed his suggestion of making a recommendation to a French speaking Canadian mission. Sure enough that is where the couple was assigned. This was a huge lesson to me regarding the importance of the continual process of thinking, pondering and studying a problem out in your mind until you receive the peaceful assurance that you have made the right choice. We had this kind of experience quite frequently. We knew we absolutely needed to be in tune with the Lord in order to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost when they came.   


When we arrived on this mission over a year ago we were very busy and quite overwhelmed. We determined that the best way to receive the help we needed with our calling was to attend the temple regularly.  We knew that would be difficult, if not impossible unless we planned ahead.  We set a date in August when we would attend the temple in the Hague. We drove there on Friday, did ordinance work for some family names and returned again on Saturday morning to do sealings. As we were getting out of our car I heard someone call over to me. I looked over and to my surprise I saw Tom and Anita Herway. Tom had been our bishop when we lived in Belgium 17 years ago. Anita had been our children’s seminary teacher.  We knew them quite well, however we had only seen them once briefly in 16 years.
We learned that Tom was retiring soon and they had come to the temple that day fasting and praying seeking guidance as to how they should proceed with their mission plans. Russell mentioned that our last mission had been in the Missionary Department working with senior missionary assignments and that we would be happy to help them understand the process if they had any questions. We assumed we would part company once inside the temple. Tom and Anita briefly spoke to one another and then decided to come with us.   Anita also said that she felt that meeting us was in some way an answer to their prayers.  We agreed that after the temple session we would go and get something to eat and talk and visit.  Midway through the sealing session I had the thought, Tom speaks Italian. I don’t have total loss of memory yet, but I really doubt that I remembered this on my own after 16 years of not interacting with them.

Over lunch we answered a wide variety of questions concerning senior missionary callings.  By this time, we all knew it was not a coincidence that we had met.  We explained that a position had recently opened up in Italy for a Welfare/Humanitarian couple to serve helping with the refugee crisis. While living in Belgium there were many refugees in our ward. Tom had worked with the refugees both as a bishop and also as a stake president in that area. We thought they might be well suited for this position.

Since Tom said he knew Elder Kearon well, Elder Healy suggested that he send Elder Kearon an email stating that he was putting in his missionary papers, but that he should make no request for a specific location or type of missionary assignment. Sunday afternoon the Herways sent an email to Elder Kearon. On Monday morning the first thing Gilles Francois, our Europe Area Welfare Manager, said to us was, “We will have to send you to the temple more often!”  He then related that he had received an email that morning saying that President Kearon had found a couple for the Welfare Department to serve in Italy.  That couple was the Herways. It has been humbling to watch Tom and Anita’s missionary call come forth with the background and perspective we were privileged to have.  

There are times in your life when you recognize that events are not luck or just coincidence, but that there is a divine purpose in why you are where you are at that exact moment. This was one of those times.

I would like to close with the words of a hymn:
Let the Holy Spirit guide;
Let him teach us what is true.
He will testify of Christ,
Light our minds with heaven’s view.

Let the Holy Spirit guard;
Let his whisper govern choice.
He will lead us safely home
If we listen to his voice.

Let the Spirit heal our hearts
Thru his quiet, gentle pow’r.
May we purify our lives
To receive him hour by hour.

Text: Penelope Moody Allen, b. 1939. © 1985 IRI

I bear witness of the power of the Spirit and am thankful for this wonderful gift which has been given to me.  I know if I will heed His promptings he will guide me as I move through life.
The Healys with the Lindsays
This birthday cake was definitely a work of art
Sister Canfield with birthday cake she made for Russell
The Healys, Lindsays and Canfields from the Europe Area Welfare Department











Sunday, September 10, 2017

LAST TEMPLE TRIP IN EUROPE


We have watched with great interest as couples from the Area Office try to obtain the proper documentation for living in Germany. Having been through the process ourselves we can say that it is not an easy matter. If a newcomer to Germany does not have the appropriate registration within 90 days of his/her arrival they cannot leave the country without risking the possibility of being refused reentry.  This past week two of the new missionary couples serving in the Area Office received their registration. They arrived at the registration office at 5:45 a.m. to wait in line until the office opened up at 1 p.m. Despite their early arrival they were 15th in line. They were elated when they finally received their registration at 1:45 p.m.

 Two other couples have been studying very diligently for their German Driver’s License. There are certain states in America which have reciprocity with Germany. That means if you live in those states you can surrender your U.S. Driver’s License and within 6 months receive a German Driver’s License.  We have some fellow missionaries whose home state does not have reciprocity here.  This means they have to pass the German test or they cannot drive after 6 months.  We have watched our friends take the practice test dozens of times. There are a total of 1070 possible questions on the test. They practiced until they knew the answer to every one of the questions. You can only miss a maximum of 9 points to pass the test. I (Eileen) along with the Germans in our office have taken the practice test and failed miserably.  The Germans were a little dismayed that they couldn’t pass the test. All in our office celebrated this week when a husband/wife companionship aced the driving test with 0 wrong!  I (Russell) believe what transpired was the result of both intense preparation and blessings from on high.  Never before has a missionary passed the test here.  To pass the test is very difficult but possible; to ace the test is nothing short of a miracle!

This past week we had the opportunity to have a departure interview with Elder Sabin from the Area Presidency. We have truly appreciated his counsel, love and leadership.  Russell and I were both very appreciative of his willingness and efforts to solve some issues we have had in our work assignments. We marvel at the wisdom and insight he shows when challenges arise.

Thursday afternoon we traveled to the Swiss Temple with Elder and Sister Garrett. The Garretts serve in the Welfare Department in Family Services. Because hotels are extremely expensive in Switzerland we decided to stay in temple patron housing.  We were a little surprised when we walked into the room. There were 2 small cots. I would say the furnishings were spartan.  However, we soon recognized how simple the patron housing makes temple attendance. We could see the temple from our room. A large dining hall was in the basement with a kitchen with multiple burners and sinks for washing dishes. There was a very large group of Italian saints staying in the housing. It was enjoyable to see them each making their meals and then distributing them to their families.  I felt like I had just moved into a huge Italian household. 

It has been a pleasure to attend the temple during our time here in Europe. This visit seemed very special to me. Perhaps it is because this will be our last temple visit in Europe. It could also be because the Swiss temple was dedicated on the day Russell was born (September 11, 1955).  There was such a feeling of peace there.  After the challenges of the last week here and at home, it was something that I really needed and appreciated.  I also had a strong witness borne to me during the sessions that the work I was doing for deceased ancestors was appreciated.  The temple work was performed in German, English, French and Italian, a reminder of how worldwide our church has become. 

On the way home, we made a short stop in the mountains of Switzerland. There was a large group of tourists from China who motioned to us to be in their pictures with them. They were very gracious, however I wish we could have communicated with them. I could say Nihao (hello) and they could say bye-bye. Other than that, all communication was done through hand gestures.
During Sacrament meeting Eileen played an organ/piano duet with Sister Rich. They played “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning”.  I (Russell) was Eileen’s page-turner.  They did a great job; especially when you factor in that they were not facing each other as they performed!  
Afterwards I thought about how my mission experience might be a bit like my being a page-turner today.  My role was very minimal to the success of the musical number – helpful maybe, critical not.  The skill and talent all resided with the two sister missionaries who have played for years.  My role as a missionary in the Church’s humanitarian effort is just a very small part in God’s kingdom here on earth.  Just as with turning the pages for Eileen, it is important that I am diligent in doing what is asked of me.  But it would be foolish of me to believe that I am critical to the work’s success.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of my service, in both my page-turning and missionary roles, is my learning how to lovingly help others as I perform my duties.  It is clear to me that I am a work-in-progress.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve my Lord here in Frankfurt and do so with my wife as my companion; they are both very patient with me.  Oh, by the way, I did drop one of the pages today.  I don’t think too many noticed it!  



Our view of the temple from our window each morning
Swiss temple, taken by Elder Garrett
Eileen and Russell at the temple

Eileen and Russell walking in the rain

There were several buildings with cheese, milk, fresh eggs and sausage stored in refrigerator. The products were sold on a total honor system. You put some money in a can for the amount you wanted to buy.

Our new Chinese friends

Lots of beautiful waterfalls.
Eileen taking the simulated driving test
Sister missionary  taking driving test. She took a photo of every question she got wrong and studied the correct answer until she knew all 1070 questions

Sunday, September 3, 2017

OUR LAST TRAINING TRIP-MOLDOVA



On Monday we flew to Moldova for the last of our trips to train a new Welfare/Humanitarian missionary couple.  It feels strange to think that we are now within four weeks of returning home and have just traveled for the last time in our assignment here.  As I (Russell) sit here looking at our map of Europe with the pictures of the 15 couples whom we serve, I never would have believed years ago that we would have gone to the places we have on this mission.  Most of the countries we have worked in were formerly communist, and before a few years ago I never even knew Cape Verde existed.  Now those places seem familiar and the couples serving there are our friends.  I can testify to the truth of the statement that “you grow to love those whom you serve.” 

We spent this last week with Elder Randall and Sister Cheryl Brown in Chisinau.  They are wonderful people who have left their home in Kanab, Utah to serve in Moldova.  Moldova is the least economically prosperous country in Europe Area and one of the largest recipients of aid from LDS Charities.  The Browns will be kept very busy with the numerous Clean Water, Wheelchair, Vision, and Maternal and Newborn Care projects currently in progress there.

On Thursday we experienced another answer to a prayer.  Eileen had been struggling for three days to get the computer and printer/scanner working for the Browns.  Despite having had the Welfare Department provided computer supposedly fully prepared by the IT Department prior to our going, and having been on the phone for many hours with IT support both from Frankfurt and SLC, things just were not fully functional (I’m being polite).  We were being told by IT support that the scanner could not be fixed and that certain applications on the computer could not be fixed.  Before we started our work on Thursday morning we said a prayer together asking for help.  That help came in the form of assistance from Ruben Marzolla, a member of the Frankfurt IT Department we usually don’t get access to.  Within an hour-and-a-half he had the problems solved.  We are very grateful for Ruben’s and God’s help on our behalf.

Once again we experienced how small the LDS world can be at times.  On Thursday night we had dinner with the Browns and two other missionary couples.  One of the Elders, Elder Ron Godfrey, asked where we were from and quickly many common acquaintances were found.  Although a few years older than me, Elder Godfrey knew several of my father’s cousins from Murray, where he had grown up.  He also remembered my father’s wife Pat from high school.  Elder and Sister Godfrey’s home is now in Logan and they know my cousin Bryan; and Sister Godfrey is a friend of Jessica’s mother-in-law.  When I said I had served briefly in the Church’s Self-reliance Department, Elder Godfrey asked if I worked with Kai Hintze.  I said no but that he was in my ward in Centerville!  It is interesting how even in a small, remote country far from home you can make common connections with other members of the Church.

Of course the sisters had a copy of the Book of Mormon with them in Romanian

Russell and Elder and Sister Brown discussing humanitarian principles

Melon hanging from tree. Excess food is left hanging outside so that it can be shared.
                                             
Local men
video

While in Chisinau we noticed a group practicing for a concert to celebrate a special holiday in Moldova. Eileen loved the music. Please click on the link above to view and listen.

While in Moldova we learned from news reports accessed on our phone that an unexploded bomb from WWII had been uncovered not far from our home in Frankfurt.  Unexploded bombs are not uncommon finds in Germany but this one was very large and reportedly if detonated could take out an entire city block.  Today (Sunday) from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM there is a mandatory evacuation of everyone within a 1.5 km radius of the bomb to allow those laboring to defuse the bomb time to do their work.  It is estimated that over 60,000 people, including all those from two hospitals and over a dozen nursing/retirement homes, have been evacuated.  The evacuation area/ring extends to within a couple hundred yards of our apartment building.  It is early afternoon and I have yet to hear an explosion so I am assuming things are progressing well.  Despite our Church building being just outside the ring, Church meetings were changed to another building for the day.


An unexploded bomb found in Hildesheim in July. Photo: DPA

Sunday, August 27, 2017

LOVING ONE ANOTHER

One of the greatest blessing that comes with our call is the opportunity to meet and serve with the other senior missionaries both here in Frankfurt (in the Europe Area Office) and with the Welfare/Humanitarian couples serving in various countries of Central & Southeast Europe and Cape Verde.  These are great individuals who are striving to do God’s will by serving their fellowmen.

It would be misleading to represent our situation as perfect or that all our interactions with our fellow missionaries are without challenges.  We are all human, imperfect beings struggling to fulfill our missionary callings.  We all have our own personalities and idiosyncrasies.  It appears that part of God’s purpose in putting us here on earth is to give us the opportunity to learn how to get along with one another, to learn how to work productively and peaceably together.  The longer I live the more I am convinced that achieving the second goal is more important than the first.

Each month Eileen prepares a newsletter containing a short article from each of our Welfare/Humanitarian couples describing what they are working on.  This newsletter goes out to scores of people, both here in Europe and Church Headquarters in Utah.  This month an experience related by a senior sister missionary serving in Sicily, struck us as particularly poignant.  We have included it below.

This month we had the sobering and heart wrenching experience of volunteering with MEDU (funded by LDS Charities) at a refugee disembarking and inside the Hotspot at Pozzallo. This was an Italian Coast Guard rescue of 392 men, women, and children. Before disembarking begins, the medical teams get organized in the triage tent. Giulia, MEDU doctor, had her brown leather medical bag, plastic gloves shoved in back jean pocket and face mask just around her neck. We watched as Giulia knelt by patient after patient. Smiling, holding their hands, comforting and reassuring them. She wants their first interaction in Italy to be kind and welcoming. The doctors and nurses somehow moved smoothly from patient to patient. The smell of human sickness, suffering, and sweat was over powering.

The brutal heat made it very physically demanding for everyone. The refugees sit on the ship deck for hours under the sun while doctors in full hazmat suits assess medical needs. Critical cases and pregnant women are disembarked first and brought right to the medical area. Some are loaded onto stretchers and into waiting ambulances to go to hospital. Finally, the others are allowed off the ship, one at a time. They are photographed and given a wristband with a number, Flip Flops and a water bottle. Buses transport them to the nearby Hotspot.  The MEDU team keeps track of torture cases, children, critical medical cases, and those in need of psychological counseling. The refugees all look dazed, bewildered and exhausted.

The Hotspot is a gigantic warehouse-type building inside the port, fenced in and heavily guarded. The refugees line up to be checked for scabies, fingerprinted, and given an initial entry interview. They each receive a large backpack with clothes, food, and water. There is an area with sinks, showers, bathrooms. The huge main room has rows and rows of blue metal bunkbeds and also mattresses covering a large section of the floor. The MEDU team continues to assess the most vulnerable people, and the psychologists and cultural mediators spend individual time with them. Giulia goes nonstop to check on the sick and injured. The MEDU team coordinator handed me a scrawny, frightened 8 month old baby whose mother was at hospital and father was not functioning. It was a tender blessing to be able to comfort, feed, and hold that baby boy that first night. On the second day in the Hotspot, we talked with individuals, found answers to their questions, and recorded their stories for MEDU. These people step off that ship with nothing. They have no idea what the future holds. So far in August, MEDU has assisted three disembarkings and a total of 530 refugees at this one dock in Sicily.


Sister missionary with refugee baby

We went hiking on Saturday with a woman from our office.  Gabi is 78 years old and in wonderful physical condition and rides her bike or hikes  through this forest near her home.

Gabi invited us over for homemade rolls at her home after our hike

Missionary friends hiking through the forest

Eileen borrowed Gabi's bike and did a little bike riding