Liebe Familie und Fruende:
So to start off, I thought that there may be people who read this email and have no idea what some of the things are that I talk about- there definitely is a "culture" to the Latter-day Saint world! So here is "The Missionary Dictionary" or "Das Wörterbuch des Missionares":
1. Mission- a period of 2 years for males or 18 months for females where they accept a call from the Prophet of God to go to an area in the world and serve our Lord. The main responsibility of missionaries on our missions is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End.
2. MTC- the Missionary Training Center. This is where missionaries go for their first 3-12 weeks of serving a mission. Here, we learn the lessons, the language, and get into the mindset and lifestyle of the mission. I was in the MTC in Provo for 9 weeks, and loved every minute of it! It was truly a great blessing to be with so many righteous followers of Christ, all united on a similar purpose. And I made some great wonderful friends!
3. Companion- the other missionary I am assigned to work with.
4. Investigator- an investigator is a person who allows the missionaries to meet with them and teach them about The Restoration of the Gospel, The Plan of Salvation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Laws and Ordinances. The name "investigator" means exactly what it sounds like- missionaries invite people to literally investigate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon, the history and experiences of Joseph Smith and others, and decide for themselves if it is true. We do not force, überzeugen, or try to convice. The Investigator investigates, and like a prospector or investigator digging for gold, if they work for it and really desire to find something, they will. I see it every day as people decide to investigate the church because of good feelings they receive as we talk to them on the street, as current investigators make progress because they have developed a desire to learn more and want to find out answers to their questions, and as investigators receive answers to their big life questions, all found in the Book of Mormon and through modern Prophets, and become members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
5. Ward- a geographical area in a city or region that determines what time you will meet at church on Sunday, basically. Here in Mönchengladbach, our ward is HUGE area wise, incorperating several cities, some 45 minutes away. In College Station, there are 3 wards, because there are too many members to meet at one time. The Ward is led by a Bishop, one of the members called to that position, receiving no money for his service. The ward members meet together on Sundays to teach each other, edify one another, help each other, worship together. This last week in church, I had a wonderful realization. Before serving here, I had always felt that the Ward was a bunch of people coming together to listen to those that were speaking or teaching, to partake of the sacrament, and to enjoy friendship of another. But really, the Ward is families coming together to do so. There was such a great feeling of family at the meetings yesterday- it was truly amazing! My perspective is different now- all that our Sunday meetings and worship services really are, are families coming together to worship the Lord. No one is higher or more important than another, and all of us can learn and grow from another. That should eliminate any anxiety about inviting people to come worship with us or coming to church or activities during the week- "Would your family like to come worship the Lord with our family and several of our friends families this Sunday?" or "Would your family like to come be with our family this Monday night and strengthen each other's faith in Jesus Christ and play some games and eat some treats?" or "Our family and many of our friend's families are going to be meeting in the park this weekend to have a barbeque, and we would love your family to come join us!" As opposed to "Church", "Family Home Evening" and "Ward Activity". The Church is nothing more than families coming together to strengthen, help, and edify one another. The ordinances and laws of the Gospel are to help and bless the family. And it really is just that simple! That's why we call each other "Brother" and "Sister" in the Church- we really are one big familie.
6. Stake- a larger geographical area made up of many wards. We are in the Düsseldorf Stake, and we are led by a Stake President.
7. Germany Frankfurt Mission organization- The mission is divided up into areas, where normally each ward is a missionary area, and usually one companionship per area. 3 or 4 areas make up a district, and 3 or 4 districts make up a Zone, where the stake boundary is normally the Zone boundary. The Germany Frankfurt Mission has 6 Zones: Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Erfurt, and Nürnberg. Each district has a district leader, and each Zone has a companionship as Zone Leaders.There are 2 or 3 assistants to the President, who are a companionship in Frankfurt, and we are all led and guided by our Mission President. President Ninow and his wife are great examples of hard work and diligent effort. Their time will be through at the end of June, and we will get our new Mission President, President Schwarz, and his wife. They are from Germany and we are very excited to work with them!
8. Transfer cycle- a six-week period. At the end of the cylce, we receive transfer calls, telling us if we will be staying in the area as a companionship for the next cycle, or if one or both of us will be transfered to a new area to work with a new companion. All these changes are made by the mission president under the direction of the Spirit of the Lord. Transfer calls are this Saturday, and we all look forward to going where the Lord wants us to go.
9. Preparation Day, or P-Day- Mondays until 6pm, where we send emails to family, write letters, go food shopping, clean the apartment, shine shoes, and anything else to prepart for the week. We can also go see cultural things and enjoy being in Germany!
If there are any other words that people don't understand, please let me know, and I can keep adding to "The Missionary Dictionary"!
Sunday was truly the great highlight of the week, but it is really tough to decide, because every day, every event, every moment is absolutely fantastic as a missionary! There is no reason to choose to have a bad day, especially as a representative of Jesus Christ, doing His work to prepare the world for His second coming. But Sunday was just really special. It was Fast Sunday, and with the together fast for the work to progress, we really saw the blessing of fasting. People we haven't seen in a long time came back to church, and joined with our big ward family. One of those families was the Degenhardts. She is from Texas, and has not been able to come to church since January, because of new born twins and they live 40 minutes from the church, and her husband is not a member of the Church. We really felt the need to get in contact with them, and especially me, because she is from Texas! We got in contact with them and had a wonderful appointment with them, Mexican food included! We tried to show love and concern and gave them the love and best wishes of the ward. Then they were at church the next day. The Spirit is what does all the work, but the Lord puts us in our specific places at specific times to help those people who will respond the Spirit that we help to bring. We also ate American Oreos, which was a wonderful treat :-)
Brother Gashi is getting a job! That means he will be able to stay in Germany and can become a member of the Church! He is so excited, and we are too! His time of investigating the church has been very short, but he feels the truthfulness of the message, and has found out for himself that it really is the true church and gospel on the earth. We met with Herr Herdt on Friday, who we talked to on the street and he wanted a Russian Book of Mormon. We brought it over and began talking to him and explaining it. A few minutes later, his wife and granddaughter came around the corner into the kitchen and said, quite literally, "Hey, we really have interest on what you are talking about too!" What a great witness that the Spirit testifies of truth, even if you are in an adjascent room- and it urges us to act and to find out more. What a great blessing! Brother Hörsken decided he wants to be baptized on June 25! We are so happy for him and know that his life will be forever changed for good! Martin has some questions about whether the Lord would accept him being baptized a second time. It is not for us to say what the Lord would accept, but if a sacred ordinance is done be someone who does not hold the proper Priesthood authority of God, it is invalid. That Priesthood Power is held and kept by the Prophet and President of the Church os Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gives that authority to others, who pass it on to other worthy males in the Church. I hold that authority. My father holds that authority. It all comes in a direct unbroken line from Jesus Christ Himself. It is real. It is really real!
The weather this last week was absolutely gorgeous! Summer in Germany is such a neat time! It is warm, blue skies, white puffy clouds, and the people are just a good! Zugehörenkeitsgefühl- that's the word that describes how I feel right now with Germany and these people- the feeling of belonging. How grateful I am for a Prophet of God, President Monson, who approved and assigned me to serve here in the Germany Frankfurt Mission. It is where the Lord needs me, it is where I need me to be. This work is the work of the Lord. I know He lives and directs it- both personally and through His prophet. Angels are always around us, bearing us up and protecting us. The Atonment of Jesus Christ is central to the Plan of Salvation and to our eternal potential. For without it, we would have no hope of being saved from physical or spiritual death, and all hopes of becomming "perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect" would be destroyed. I am so grateful for eternal perspective. That perspecitve makes my priorities centered on Christ and eliminates the things that have no meaning or simply waste time. And there really is no time to waste. Christ is coming, and we need to be ready. That is what this work is for, to prepare the world for His majestic and triumphant return. I hope and pray I will be worthy to stand with Him and further His work as He rules and reigns in righteousness:
"That glorious rest will then commence which prophets did fortell, when Saints will reign with Christ on earth and in His presence dwell a thousand years, oh glorious day! Dear Lord, prepare my heart to stand with Thee on Zion's mount and nevermore to part." (Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise, hymn #41).
Eternal Perspective. I could go on and on of how my life has been completely changed by continuing to develop an eternal persepctive, but there isn't enough room on the internet, let alone the blog page, to hold it all! I know that when we center our priorities on Christ, and do those things that have eternal consequences, and make sure to pray with an eternal perspective, then our lifes here and now will be so greatly blessed. We will be able to do all the other things we want and need to do. But this earthlife really is only a blink in the eternities of time. Forgiveness, gentleness, charity, faith, hope, cheerfullness = Eternal Perspective. I testify that the glorious day will come when Christ returns and redeems us all. I testify that it will happen in majesty and power and will be a time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that it is He, who the Prophets have testified would return, the Source of salvation and exaltation.
He lives! He will return! Let us do our part to prepare ourselves and as many others as possible, so that we too can stand with the angels and prophets of ages past, to raise our voices in praise to our Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ. Let us lay aside those things that keep our perspecitve limited or blocked from seeing the eternal light, power, and glory that will be His and ours in that Millenial Day.
With the hope of a bright and glorious tomorrow, let us help somebody today.
All my love and best,
Elder Nathan D. Garlick
German Frankfurt Mission
"Shall we not go on in so great a cause?" D&C 128:22