Liebe Familie und Freunde!
What a great and blessed week! The highlight was Guo's baptism and confirmation! It was so great to see him change his life and follow the example of Jesus Christ. I was able to play the piano at the Taufegottesdienst and there was a great Spirit... but there was a definitely different feeling in me before the meeting when the conducting member of the bishopric came to me and confirmed that I was going to be doing the confirmation in church the next day- first time I got that news! I am very glad it was fast Sunday, because I really needed the extra spirit! But with Elder Forsyth helping me with the necessary words the night before, the confirmation and giving of the Holy Ghost completed Guo's entrance through the gate onto the straight and narrow path. I am now more a believer that Heavenly Father understands all languages, even Garlicksprach, as Elder Forsyth puts it, because even though it was definitely far from perfect and sometimes even understandable German, I felt a great feeling afterwards of the Spirit confirming to me that everything was in ordenung. What a great feeling! It was also a great experience, because it was my first time to confirm a person outside of work for the dead in the temple. It truly was a tender mercy from the Lord, and a witness of the miracles and divine help that are always waiting for us; just waiting there for us to ask and to accept them.
But I got some practice with German during church other than the confirmation- we had a man from Austrailian move in to the ward and will be here for a while, and doesn't know a lick of English! So we had to translate for him. Elder Forsyth (with 7 plus years of pre-mission German) did Sunday school and Priesthood, and did it perfectly. He helped pass the sacrament, so I was back with this man, and oh was it fun! Also my first time translating, there was a great feeling involved! It was pretty funny, because many members in the ward speak English as their second language, so during the testimonies, some of them would kind of look back at me and smile, because either I was translating completely wrong or just making stuff up... it was a ball! I got the basic gist of it, and know that my translating in the moment skills will improve as time goes on. And it is also fun to note that most people think I am from Holland! When I first talked with people, either in church or on the street, many asked if I was Hollandish- because of my accent. Apparently I have hard R's and wet CH's, but I take it as a compliment and am so grateful that the Lord is allowing me to develop a native accent... and Holland and Germany are neighbors, so I'm almost there!
We had Zone Conference on Tuesday in Dortmund, and that was a greatly wonderful time! We talked about teaching and how to do it better. President and Sister Ninow are such great people and so down to earth and loving (well, they are from Texas!). It was also great to see some Elders from the MTC that are in the Düsselforf/Dortmund Zones, including Elder Johson! All that we talked about really bolstered us up and gave me some direction for goal planning and revelation on things I need to do and be.
On Thursday I had a companion exchange with our district leader. He cam to Gladbach, and it was up to me to get us around town and visit some people. We had some goals of people to visit, etc., but my secret internal overall goal was to not get lost in the city! Well, my goal was soon broken as we got on bus 23 to go to the NATO base to contact a referral from Salt Lake. Apparently, bus 23 has an alternate route that runs like twice a day, and we happened to get that route, completely unknown to both os us. we kept going and going and going... and then reached the last stop of the route, and had to get out. Good thing we had the map, because we found out that we ended up about 2 miles north of where we wanted to go, and no busses! So we walked it! But we were out in this small farming Dorf with the picture-perfect missionary picture with a long, straight road, huge farming fields on the side and trees lining the way. Too bad we didn't have our cameras! So we walked a while and then reached this huge forest. It was faster to go through it, so that's what we did (Yes, we literally went Into the Woods... good thing we went out of the woods and got home before dark!), following some paths and trails. So we walked through the woods and actually were able to contact people along the trail! I still wonder what these people thought, about why these missionaries would be trying to talk about faith in Jesus Christ in the middle of the forest.. missions are so much fun! Then we came up to the back of the NATO base and saw the barracks and barbed wire fences and military vehicles (It felt like we had found the LOST bunkers........so that added to our excitement...and anxiety). As we got closer we had the thought that perhaps the trail would end and we would have to walk all the way back or all the way around the base. Then we thought about what the people in the buildings would think if they looked out and saw us.. 'What are these two young men wearing suits and carrying these side bags doing walking out of the forest and around the base??' Then we prayed real intently in our hearts that they wouldn't think we were trying to do anything horrible to the place, and we found a road that led into the base and all was good. The referral contact was not at home, but the adventure was still worth it! 1- I learned that we can contact people and bear witness of Jesus Christ at any time and at any place, even in a forest. 2- Attitude and optimism are key for any kind of success or progress. 3- This area of Germany is more beautiful than I thought before!
We have had a great opportunity to teach and meet with Antonia and Jürgen- they are so ready to come into the Church, but as we came to their house yesterday, we caught them in the middle of a relationship dispute (and a pretty big one). But they still wanted to meet with us, so we came in and after prayer, and some waiting for tears to dry and stories explained, we read from the Book of Mormon. My testimony of the peace and comfort the Book of Mormon brings has been exponentially increased. Over the course of our reading and discussing, they scooted closer to each other, and the Spirit greatly came into the home. We also gave Jürgen a blessing because of some serious health issues that have come up recently. We testified of the healing and helping power of Jesus Christ and gave them a picture to keep on the wall so they can always remember Him and feel His influence. Antonia always says it, but this day was even more special, when she said that we are angels sent from God to her and them, and feels we are her sons. She was actually about to leave right when we got there, her backs packed and by the door. Elder Forsyth and I really felt the love for these two, and felt their sorrow and desire for things to be right. Then we felt the divine assistance that literally flooded the room, and the uplifting and positive atmosphere that stayed. One of the most touching things was later that night, they called us and thanked us for visiting and that everything was in ordenung und updated us on some things they were working on. She started by saying 'Liebe Kinder!' So we now have an Italian mother who loves to cook for us! But even more important, we have a special bond with these two. The days of miracles have absolutely NOT ceased, and angels are still ministering unto the children of men... just sometimes, people see these angels in us. Let us be better at being ministering angels to those around us, and helping them to come closer to Christ.
President Uchtdorf said in conference that we need to be better at preaching the Gospel, and if necessary, use words to do so. This was shown to us as we got on the bus after meeting with Antonia and Jürgen, and over the course of the bus ride, literally everybody on that bus turned and looked at us, or smiled at us, and most couldn't help but keeping their gaye in our direction. It was absolutely not us, but the great spirit they felt as we brought with us the healing and comforting power of the spirit with us onto that bus- their spirits recognized it, and I know many of them longed to have it back as they went through their day. And that is why it is so important to always have His spirit with us. People notice. For most, they want it, but are not quite sure what 'it' is. That is why we have been placing more emphasis on sharing the Book of Mormon, because 'it' is in the Book of Mormon. We have found that when we show the Book of Mormon to those we talk about, the simple spirit of the Book and the doctrines contained flow out of it, and they accept it- whether it be a Deutsch or Spanish or Russian or Turkish copy.. all of which we have had the privilege of sharing with the wonderful people of Mönchengladbach.
What a great work this is! It truly is a miracle...every bit of it! Let us all be more sensitive to the Spirit and do better and acting on those promptings, for as President Monson has said, it is in the doing, not the dreaming that lives are blessed, memories are made, and Heaven is brought closer to hand.
Thank you for your prayers, love and support. It truly means the world, even though we are all half a world away.
All my best and love,