March 27, 2018

Well, the weeks are dwindling down with just ten left, and I will give you this one in review. We said goodbye to our young Elder Brown on Wednesday morning and welcomed to Rostock Elder Openshaw who is almost finished with his mission..going home just a few weeks after we do, so he no doubt will send us off. Hopefully that will be the case as my heart can't take much more of saying goodbye to these young missionaries who we come to love so much. I feel ever so grateful for all of them and hope that wherever in the world you are that you can love the  missionaries, be kind to them and oh yes, feed them when you can!! Need help? Call the missionaries! They delight in service! They are  out here at their own expense because they love God and desire to serve Him. 

     Wednesday afternoon we met our dear friend Seigrid at the church...remember her? The one who doesn't believe in God or the afterlife? Anyway, as I shared, her husband has a fatal brain tumor and is dying...he is still at home and she doesn't get out much, but decided to come out that afternoon and see a few friends. We were grateful that we were on that list and had a good visit with her. Maybe next week when she comes back to learn some "English" we can re visit that life after death conversation. I hope so.

Thursday was a "card making"  activity with a few Relief Society sisters. The head gal who was teaching us (visiting from out of town) had a few  funny choice German words to say about mine as I tend to end up with crooked lace, paper etc. etc. but it was great fun and we each made two lovely cards. It was a small group, but a lot of laughter and my Angelika and Gentz were nearby to interpret what I needed to hear. 

Saturday we had District meeting with our four missionaries and got to know the new ones a little bit more...two always come over from Schwerin about an hour away..we have our new Elder Openshaw (new to us, not to the mission) and Elder Souza Lima in Schwerin now who is from Brazil. I had made taco soup that I thought was way too spicy but they LOVED it! For next district meeting tomorrow I am making a Brazilian Stew with black beans and a ton of meat in yes, my ever faithful crockpot. Gentz made his annual Bunny bread! We love feeding the missionaries.

Sunday was a great day at church with several visitors and we had Daniel over for lunch with the Elders. He had made Gentz an Africa shirt with a sewing machine we gave him that was our dear Sister Schlunze's ( who died last year). Daniel was a tailor by trade back in Ghana and the shirt is so beautifully made. Then we took a meal over to the Bernhardts who just had their little baby Aurora on Saturday morning. After that, Katharina, our neighbor came over and visited for a couple of hours as well as the elders as I always love for them to meet her.

Yesterday we went to visit Elke and Peter and watch slides of their Egyptian Tour. Elke is a shopowner right around the corner who I have gotten to know fairly well and she has been wanting to have us over to their apartment for some time. It was a fun couple of hours with them and they were ever so hospitable with cake and tea of course...Gentz had to eat 3 pieces of cake!! But as he said it is not as rich as American cake..more like whipped cream, so he was fine! We so love getting to know these hospitable Germans better and I have certainly learned more about being a good host! There is always food, tea and great conversation and many laughs!

Friday our Easter initiative launched here in Europe...#immerda or #alwaysthere with a lovely video and cards we can hand out and ask others how Christ has been there for them. As Gentz and I were discussing this with one another we decided that for us, we would say when our children suffered, He was there. Unfortunately, that seems to be where the most suffering in our family has been. How grateful I am for the peace that we have received and the love always felt in even our darkest moments!! Truly He is ALWAYS THERE!! He is STILL THERE! I have attached the very short video if you would like it and reflect yourselves on how the Savior has been there for you throughout your lives.  always there english.mp4

So, there we have it..the news this week from rainy Rostock! We so appreciate all of your prayers and your friendship. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I will close with this scripture that I love from Doctrine and Covenants 6:14; "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time."  I love thinking about that....as we inquire of the Lord He guides us through His spirt and we know that we are led by Him. I am so looking forward to General Conference this weekend and being able to "sit at the feet" of the prophet and apostles and leaders as they give us the divine direction through the spirit of what the Lord would have us know at this time. If you want to hear some really great talks from inspired men and women, tune in to LDS.ORG and watch on Saturday and Sunday...you won't be disappointed!

We are grateful for the sacred privilege to be here at this time on this mission and know we are right where we need to be. Our lives have been enriched, our hearts have grown and our testimony that God loves all of His Children has indeed been strengthened.  Happy Easter and remember that He  is ALWAYS THERE!!

What I've discovered on this mission

March 7, 2018

This one is from Gentz! As I was preparing to go on a street display with the young missionaries (not my favorite thing to do), I said to Jeri and to myself: You know why I came on this mission as hard as it was to leave our comfortable home, our dear friends and our family who we love so much? It is because I can't stand to see people suffer. I want them to have the same peace and joy that I have because of my love for Jesus Christ. I want them to have someone to turn to when loved ones die and they cry out of grief, when they feel alone, when bad things happen as they do often through no fault of their own.

Here are a few discoveries that I have made over the last 14 months. I have discovered that I worry way too much but I'm not willing to give up my cautious approach to life completely. I just know that too much worry is totally unnecessary and takes way too much energy. I will pray that things will go well with any given endeavor and accept what comes my way. I think I can honestly say that most of my worries have not been fulfilled  for which I am very grateful. Faith not fear.

I have learned that Jeri and I can live physically very close and spend most of our time together and be happy .We depend on and support each other . There is a wonderful balance. I am amazed at how well we get along actually. We aren't perfect and we don't have a perfect marriage but we do have a good one that we have worked on for a few years. I can't explain love or define it simply but I can simply say I love her. Marriage is for time and eternity.

I was truly scared to come on a mission because I thought It would be a young man mission again.I am not a young man and God knows this of course. He is not asking me to do young man things again.That part of my life is over. I do 60 year old things now.That is the way it was always meant to be.

There were talks written to that effect several years ago. God knows I am a different person now with different abilities than I had 40 years ago.Why would He want me to go back and do the same things I did as a young man? As I change so do my responsibilities.

Speaking of change I have had to accept certain physical limitations I didn't think would be until later in life . I'm having a shoulder issue they say are related to age and an old injury from lifting too many weights. I  know I can't keep doing to my body what I have been without damaging it. I have learned finally that there are very adequate and satisfying alternatives which I am currently pursuing(i.e. yoga, stretching) . Change is okay and usually overdue.

My greatest challenge here has been missing our family and home.This is difficult for me. At the same time though I am having probably the greatest ,most satisfying time of my life. The balance is sufficient that when my heart carries me home I can look around and be somehow amazed at the wonder of it all and everything is okay. I do not like being away from kids or home just like some mornings I don't feel like working out but I never regret it after I go ahead with it. Home sick is okay. Doing hard things is okay.  In the end everything will be okay because that's the plan.

Young people have a lot of knowledge and wisdom . I am amazed at what comes out of the mouths of the young Sisters and Elders. I am not surprised however when they sometime show a certain lack of maturity because they are young and have the right to be immature .Sometimes I feel I have something to offer them in terms of wisdom but most of the time the best thing I offer them is love. Young people need a little advice and a lot of love.

I love the Germans and the German way of life even more than 40 years ago. There is so much positive and beautiful here. I appreciate this enhanced vision of this people and land. Interestingly I have come to love my country even more as a result. I am very happy to be an American. The Germans feel so bad about their past that they cannot say proud or happy or anything like that.  I think they are comfortable in their German skins but unable to express it. I take joy in expressing my feelings for my country. Germany is good and so is America.

Everything about our mission has had purpose and divine planning. God is truly in charge and runs things well. I am needed as is Jeri. We needed this experience. Our experiences heretofore have had application time and again in our current  activities and interactions. God knows what He is doing even if I don't .

I am best at being who I am. I really think that is all that is expected of me so my job has become pretty easy and enjoyable. It’s like having the job you always wanted and having the time and resources to do it well. I was living my dream in Minnesota and now I'm just continuing the dream in a little less selfish way. My life is good.

Thanks for reading . 

Gentz's musings through walks in Rostock

Feb. 15, 2018

I feel like Billy Keene when he would periodically take over the responsibility for the Family Circus cartoon for his father ,Bill Keene. Jeri has commissioned me to do the weekly communication/blog for this week so here goes.

I was taking my morning walk this week and taking pictures like I do sometimes which caused me to consider how amazing my experiences are here. It was a clear day and the cooling tower in Warne Münde was putting out a great plume. The cool thing about that particular tower is that it is part of a plant that creates power and a centralized heat that is pumped all over town.They call it Fernwärme or distant warmth. It is a hold over from the East  German times. It is in harmony with the whole idea of collectivism.(workers of the world unite!) Central heat created in one place and distributed throughout the city. There are places that have their own heating systems but many of the apartment buildings are heated with the central heat. Ours is for example.There is no furnace . So no worries about carbon monoxide poisoning or the furnace breaking down.Of course you have no control over when the heat comes on (October as I remember). We really weren’t cold though since the temperatures here are moderated by the Baltic Sea.There are these huge pipes running all over town bringing heat to our little world here. So isn’t that kind of amazing?

And while I”m on the idea of hold overs from the GDR(East Germany) times it is interesting to hear the comments from the people in and outside the church about those times.”It wasn’t all bad”.That is to say that there were things they missed like people caring about each other, working together,helping each other, free education, cheap housing, free childcare.They said the greatest downside was just not being able to travel to the West.They could go East if they had the money . Of course the other downside was the State Security (lovingly called the Stasi).The Stasi had the art of control and intimidation down to an art.If you wanted to get along in the GDR you had to cooperate with the Stasi which meant keeping an eye on your neighbors and reporting anything that could be considered to be a threat to the GDR. Every LDS congregation had a member who had to report on the leader of the congregation(Branch President) and probably anyone one else in the congregation that the Stasi was worried about. But really most people didn’t have problems with the Stasi and that is why the people in general weren’t concerned with the Stasi. I could go on about this situation all day but I won’t because Jeri would delete it.

So okay back to my walk. We had ice in the harbor that day. The weather here as I said is moderated by the Baltic(which they actually call the Ostsee or East Sea) but it has been cold so it was iced up.That will not last long though . I have been enjoying the colder weather ,Teens and 20’s . We did go to the Baltic a couple of days ago when it was cold and we saw these paddle boarders out in it and all of the people walking on the beach.They are just plain hardy folks up here. I mean the weather is fairly mild but there is almost constant wind especially on the Baltic and it is always damp which makes even moderate weather chilly,none the less they paddle board ,walk the beach, ride their bicycles with no gloves and sometimes no hats and are just generally always out in it.

I  like the harbor which leads to the mouth of the Warnow River as it empties into the Baltic. There is a real beauty to it. There are large research ships ,all the private boats and the larger sailboats. It is just all very picturesque. There is a circus set up along the river right now. As I was walking I noticed a small pony from the circus had gotten loose and was being chased by one of the workers.There was also an outside pen where the circus yaks were hanging out.I wasn’t sure what circus yaks do but I’m pretty sure what ever they want as long as it is in a herd. I dont think I would want to try to train a yak. Anyway I thought  how this just adds to the experience here. (A dear friend of mine, Richard Mudd, who really knows his animals emailed me back and kindly told me these are Scottish Highland Cows not yaks...he is RIGHT!)

Then I happened upon a seagull eating a piece of frozen roll.I noticed two ravens kind of hanging close.This was a big gull so the ravens were being cautious. I thought I would help them so I just walked close to the seagull and he flew off. It is interesting that the ravens were less afraid of me than the seagull .They jumped on the roll as soon as the seagull was gone and paid me little attention. When I came back the seagull was back and the two ravens were still there just waiting. Now I have to say that seagulls and ravens have a pariah status, but the gulls are more hated because they can become very aggressive when it comes to food.You can be fined for feeding them as i learned after feeding them a bag of bread one day. (I didn't get fined). They are fun to watch catching the bread in the air .They do get pretty nasty and will steal food out of humans' hands if they get the chance.The ravens are just a little more intelligent about the whole process but they can be just as unpleasant. I watched one day as a raven attacked a blackbird ,disabled it and then flew off with it. It was not pleasant but I guess it is a part of nature. So the ravens are smart and the gulls can fly beautifully. I guess those things redeem them to some degree. In the end they are God’s creatures and fulfill a role. They are probably no worse than some human beings and maybe better since we are supposed to be rational but don't always live up to that distinction.

I really love to walk in the old part of Rostock. Rostock means mouth of the river in some slavic language. Many of the towns have slavic names and end in OW . In German the OW is usually pronounced like we would say OV. But the Germans didn’t want to be considered to be too slavic so they dropped the OV sound and just left it a long o sound.The Warnow River is pronounced Varno . So that had nothing to do with the old town. I loved it because the streets are all curvy and some of the buildings are very old. Rostock was heavily bombed during WW2. I think it was the Americans too. Sorry Rostock but there was a Henkles bomber factory here. Anyway some of the old buildings survived but many did not so they have rebuilt much in the original style. Pretty cool. I really appreciate how they love and preserve their historical stuff. This is something we have very little of in the US. I’m not knocking the US,land that I love, just stating fact. Germany has been around a lot longer .

One of the several old beautiful churches still in good working order here in Rostock.

The bottom line is it is cool to live here.It is a great place to visit or to live for a while. I suppose I am too much an American to want to stay for ever but what it has offered me is simply outstanding. Upon our return I will be glad to regale all who dare to get me started about the details of our experience. Jeri has about 10,000 pictures on her phone so we could do a pretty scary slide show too. Hope your week was as good as ours.

"Behold are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?" (Mormon 9:16)