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