Zoko and Hansa Sail!

August 14, 2017

I am a missionary and I am sometimes a tourist in Germany. As a missionary this week, my favorite companion, Elder Franz and I rode a train with our two young missionaries Elders Clyde and Behrndt to Berlin for a double Zone meeting (area of missionaries) called ZOKO. These are held once a transfer which is once every six weeks.

 Dear Elder Clyde from Utah, always happy!

My traveling and cooking buddy, Elder Behrndt from Southern Germany!

My dear husband hates driving in Berlin and so I figure that every time we go there now, it will be on the train which was very relaxing for him of course. It took quite a bit longer than a car simply because of schedules but I felt like a real missionary, running to catch the bus just in time to get to the church building. There is nothing I love more than seeing a missionary run...it fills me with such a love and gratitude for them and all they are willing to do and sacrifice for the Lord. Gentz used to do this quite regularly 40 years ago as a young missionary in Southern Germany. 

At the Zoko, there were 12 young sister missionaries, 32 elders and four of us senior missionaries. I can't quite describe to you what it is like to be in a chapel with all of them and their wonderful mission president, President Fingerle and his dear wife. There is a strength and a spirit that fills my soul with awe and reverence as I see them and the work that they are so freely doing. They all stand and in unison recite from memory their missionary purpose and Doctrine and Covenants 4, all in German. 
“My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

Then Doctrine and Covenants 4:

Then we are instructed...by our Mission President and His wife, by other missionary leaders. Some of the gems I wrote down:
We need to continually improve ourselves...even just 1% can make a huge difference. If your discipleship is serious it will show. We can't go home after the mission and retire. We need to stay involved in people's lives. Become like the Savior.

Sisters Gines and Harger are both going home in ten days. They have been awesome missionaries. Here are a just a few more:
 Elder Skidmore who served here in Rostock when we first arrived in December and is now one of the assistants to the President in Berlin. He holds a special place in our hearts. Tremendous young man and missionary!
 Sister Ingalls, from Minnesota, the home of our heart and yes she is related to Laura Ingalls Wilder!!

 Our dear Mission President Fingerle and his wife. A mission president serves for three years with his family; he and his wife are from Southern Germany and still have two daughters at home. They are dedicated, fearless and valiant in their testimonies and wonderful teachers! How we love them!

 It is always good to renew ties with our fellow senior missionaries. Elder and Sister Ball (the one with the hat) are going home in September after having served 23 months in the mission office tirelessly. My they have worked hard and we will miss them!! The Schwicks on the other end from Alaska will be replacing them. Sister Brown next to me is from Germany,.left 50 years ago and married her husband who had served as a young missionary here. 

And so our day went and then we headed home. After a stop at Elder Berndt's favorite Doner place to eat supper! If you don't know what a Doner is...google it! Like my favorite place to eat!!

                                                              Waiting for the bus!

An old church on a busy Berlin Street. There is always something interesting to see.

Elder Berhndt reading a letter from home. He goes back to Southern Germany, his home, in ten days after serving 24 months. How we will miss him! He's such a great missionary and an excellent cook as well:))
It was a good day, a full day and a fun missionary day!!

Then the Hansa Sail was here in Rostock this weekend and so like good tourists, we went and checked out all the ships. It is like a car rally but instead all these huge ships come sailing into the harbor. And on the wharf side there are carnival rides,  lots of merchants selling whatever you might want....think state fair and like a million people. Our apartment is like two blocks away from the harbor so there was a steady stream of festive people heading down there for three days.

Such Beautiful old ships!! It would have been fun to take a ride on one but we figured it was probably too pricey, so we just enjoyed walking around.


We attended on Thursday with Katrine and Alex from church. They are great and Katharina the other family member is on a mini mission in Southern Germany. She is seventeen and just joined the church last August. They are a wonderful family whom we have grown to love so much! 
Beautiful day and not too many crowds

Then on Saturday after a little grocery shopping we went with our "adopted daughters", Nosheen from Pakistan and Vimal from India. We always have a great time with them. Such fun!

So, all in all it was a great week as a missionary and a tourist and we continue to be astonished at the beauty here, both in the countryside and the people and the missionaries. What a rich experience we are having and how grateful we are to God for it!! Life is good! 
Tchüss till next time!

Jeri and Gentz 

Good bye for now Sister Schlünz

July 20, 2017

Good bye dear Sister Schlünz! I had just written about her in my last blog post about "Going home" and indeed she passed away peacefully early this morning at the nursing home. She experienced no pain as she had been promised and at last is reunited with her dear husband who she has lived without now for 19 years. She was 93 years old and very ready to go home.

How does one get so close to somebody they have only known for 7 months and do not speak the same language? That is the blessing of serving a mission...we have the time to visit regularly and can be available at a moment's notice. She welcomed us into her apartment where she had lived for 60 years when we first arrived here. I was so impressed by her friendly, open nature and loved her laugh and her twinkling eyes.

A few months later when it became necessary to go into the nursing home, she did so without complaint, knowing this was the next step and she would be taken care of. She would always say that Christ was with her to comfort her.  She had a roommate and was on a waiting list for her own room but again, never complained. We visited her every Sunday, and she would pat the bed and have me sit there while Gentz sat in a chair and did all of the talking and she would pat my hand and smile and I just continued to love her more and more with each visit.
Finally she got her own room and was so happy to welcome visitors to her little table with water and fruit, once again being able to play the host. Germans are so hospitable!

Then she fell and broke her elbow, having to go into the hospital for a couple of weeks before she could return to her little room. Upon her return, it was obvious that she did not have long to live, and so our weekly visits turned into daily visits. What a gift that was to be with her even more and see how gracefully and peacefully she was accepting these next steps at the end of her life. 

We were certainly not the only ones to visit her as she had so many friends and those who loved her from our small branch (congregation). They had been with her for years..she was like their "Oma" (grandma). She had served faithfully in various callings in the church. 

On one of our last visits, Gentz asked if she would like for him to read her a scripture and she asked for Alma 37:37 from the Book of Mormon: "Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day." What a perfect scripture for her  and how well she lived that!

She was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from  1947 to 1949. It was a very difficult time for all Germans especially in East Germany where she lived and served. Nonetheless, she faithfully served and rode her bicycle everywhere, depending on the goodness of other members the church to feed her. As she said, she often went hungry as nobody had any money after the war. 

And so, we say farewell to a dear soul who certainly left our lives and the world just a little brighter because of her sweet, gentle spirit. She was unassuming, not wanting a fuss to be made over her, just to be quietly buried next to her beloved husband in the beautiful wooded cemetery near the nursing home. Thank you Sister Schlünz, for loving me even though I could not speak German. For loving so many people in your quiet, mild manner. As we left her room yesterday evening, I kissed her forehead as I always did and said, "Ich liebe dich Sister Schlünz" and the last phrase we heard her say, was to reply: "I love you" in a sweetly accented English and a smile. 

I look forward to hearing that throaty laugh and seeing those twinkling eyes someday when I cross through the veil to the other side where all languages will be the same. And I hope I can be just like you as I bid farewell to this life. Auf Wiedersehen, dear dear Sister Christa Schlünz! What a glorious resurrection awaits you!

Going Home

July 18, 2017
 This week was full of “going home” for  18 young sister missionaries and one elder that we were fortunate enough to be part of in Freiberg

It is such a blessing in this mission that when missionaries go home, they  spend a couple of days with the mission President and his wife in the lovely old  town of Freiberg. They are fed delicious meals, attend the temple and go to the special place of Radebeul overlooking Dresden. 

It was here that President Monson, an apostle at that time, rededicated the work of the Lord in East Germany. He promised that they would have the blessings of the temple….the opportunity to be sealed as families, something they had not been able to have up to that point because a whole family could not leave East Germany…someone always had to stay behind.  That was just one of many freedoms that they did not enjoy. Miraculously the Freiburg Temple was built ten years later in 1985 in East Germany before the wall came down. To think about that, it would be tantamount to any Christian church being able to go into North Korea today. Nothing is impossible with God!

It is a lovely spot, with trees and benches and a view of the Elbe River Valley. We all stood together and those lovely missionaries sang “Come ye fount of every blessing”, read the dedicatory prayer President Monson had given and said a prayer. Then we stayed for around 15 minutes, just to experience the quiet reverence that is found there.

Being in the temple with the young missionaries was a wonderful experience. Afterwards, we all went to the church right next door and they had a testimony meeting where each one shared what she/he had learned on her/his mission. They had invited friends to attend and some family members had traveled over to Germany to accompany their daughters home and tour a bit. Those were wonderful reunions to behold. They had not seen their parents for 18 months with only speaking on Mother’s Day and Christmas via Skype, so many tears were shed and hugs exchanged and bright smiling faces all around! 

Our wonderful mission president President Fingerle and his dear wife

I was so impressed by their testimonies. I will share about just one…Sister Ha who is from Korea. She played a beautiful piece on her viola: “Nearer my God to Thee” and it was as if the heavens were opened as she so skillfully and masterfully expressed her testimony of the Savior through her instrument. She later shared how hard her mission had been and how she came to depend on the Lord more than ever before. She was the first Korean to ever serve in Germany She knew no English when she came, so had to learn English AND German!  She felt a cultural  pressure to perform well because of this. I don’t imagine that anyone was putting pressure on her..I would say that was from within, but it certainly did endear her to all of us. 

This meeting was all in German, and those of us who wouldn’t be able to understand were provided headphones and our own Elder Skidmore translated beautifully for us.  We would not normally have been able to go have this wonderful sacred experience until we leave ourselves but because of Gentz’s association with Sister Föger who is deaf and her companion, we were invited to be a part for which we were just thrilled. Freiberg is about 5 hours from Rostock, so it is quite a trip, but always worth it to be able to attend the temple. I felt so very grateful for these treasured experiences we are having and that we are in a 
mission that has such a lovely farewell for their missionaries.

With the subject of going home, I don’t think a person ever witnesses these joyous family reunions without thinking of how joyous it will be to move onto the next life and be reunited once again with our family members…our mothers, fathers, children, ancestors who have moved on. What a glorious day it will be to see them all again! Right now, we are sitting daily with our dear Sister Schlünz who I have written about before. She is 93 years old, broke her elbow and is now back in the nursing home just waiting to die. It shouldn’t be too long now as each day she seems to sleep more and more. But she is peaceful, she eats a bit of chocolate once in a while like a good German and often chats and smiles and laughs. I want to be just like her when I am old!! She says that Heavenly Father promised her that she would die without pain and she is ready to go…to meet her husband and her stepson who died before. She is such a faithful soul. When I asked her on Sunday’s visit what she had learned during her long life, she said: “To forgive. Don’t take offense. Give your problems to Jesus Christ. Then she shared a quote by Goethe: “We should live our lives so that the world  is a little bit brighter because of us.” I can say that Sister Shclünz has certainly done that. When I leave her room, I kiss her forehead and say “Ich liebe dich Siste Schlünz” and she says in broken English: “I love you!” I am so grateful to have been able to know this dear, wonderful woman and to have been a part of her life for just a short time.

So, life is good here. The weather is beautiful. The scenery is stunning. The people are kind once you get past the tough exterior and my testimony grows every day that Heavenly Father loves his children everywhere. Prayer works and draws us closer to that Perfect being who has a perfect plan for us! Life is short, so very short, and I hope indeed that all of us can say no matter when we are called home that we can leave the world just a little bit brighter. Tchüss