Liebe Famile und Freunde:
What an amazing week!! So much happened, it would be impossible to describe it all through an email!
But before that, I have a new favorite sport: Bahn surfing! So on the busses and trains (Bahns) the drivers sometimes get going a little crazy- it is definitely an adventure to try and balance without holding on to the bars or handles as the busses and trains go through the cities. We've gotten pretty good at it, and it makes for an enjoyable ride. This works best when not many people are on the bus :-)
Megan and Alicia got baptized this weekend! It was so wonderful, and the Spirit was really strong. I remember the first time we went over to Megans house, and met with her parents. They hadn't been accepting of missionaries for quite a while, but we were just the right ones at the right time, and were able to experience the conversion of the whole family. Megan's dad baptized her, and he was so nervous, but he did it all perfectly. It was such a blessing to see Megan so excited and ready for baptism, as well as the parents come back to church and now play a strong role in the ward. Alicia has been to church her whole life, but her dad, who is not a member, wouldn't let her get baptized until she turned 16. She turned 16 two weeks ago, and she was so ready to be baptized! I was able to do the baptism interview for her, and it was a real neat experience. She hadn't been taught a lot by missionaries, but grew up learning in Primary and Young Womens, and from her mother. The first question is about our feelings about and our relationship with God. As she bore her testimony of God as our Father, I felt the Spirit so strong, and knew that she was ready to be baptized and make these covenants with Him.
Dallin, these baptisms made me think about when you asked me to baptize you. That was such a neat time! Thanks for letting me do that a few years ago!
I was able to work with Elder Mildon in Koblenz on Wednesday, and we had a real interesting experience as we were talking with some people in their homes. One woman we talked to was 60-ish and her whole family had passed away- husband, children, parents. She was the only one left. We naturally brought up the hope and joy that comes with the knowledge that Christ was resurrected and lives, meaning that we will too. She said something I won't ever forget. She shook her head and with this look of hoplessness said "Well, in my church, we believe that Christ died, but that was all." My heart sank into my stomach- this woman was faithful at going to church every week and praying night and morning, and truly believed that Christ lived and died. But that was the end. That also where her hope ended as well. The resurrection is THE source of hope for everything in this life! It is like reading a story, getting to the climax, and then turn the page, and then find out the end page is blank... WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?! We talked with this woman about the accounts in the Bible about how Christ showed Himself to many people after His resurrection- she shook her head, and said that it was all a spiritual symbol, and that Christ now lives in each of us... Then we pulled out a copy of the Book of Mormon, and testified that Jesus Christ truly did show Himself to the ancient inhabitants of America after His death and resurrection. The Book of Mormon truly is another testament of Jesus Christ- not just that He lived, or a second witness of His doctrine and all that He taught, but the Book of Mormon is second witness that Jesus Christ lives TODAY! This sweet woman said she was pretty skeptical of this all, but we promised she could find out for herself. I shared my testimony of Christ, that He lives, that His resurrection is the source of all hope in this life, and that she would be able to give a hug to her beloved family members again someday. I looked in her eyes and noticed something different than before- not a belief or acceptance of what we said, but a desire to hope for it- a want to want to, as Sister McKneely said in seminary- and that was what this older woman needed that night. I don't know if she looked at the website or read the card we gave her, but she sure did enjoy showing us her flower garden that is starting to grow, and I felt that she now has a desire to believe. And that's enough for the Spirit to work. I know Christ lives today. He lives and has a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones- if it weren't so, I think I would be like this woman was before, with absolutely no hope that any future could bring anything good or worth-wild. Christ is the source of all things good- without Him, the isn't any good. But there is so much good in the world today, it is another witness to me that He lives! The doctrine of the resurrection is so crucial and central, I could go on and on about it- I love it, I know it is real, I know I will be able to give my Grandma and cousins and great-grandparents big hugs in the next life! That's the hope I hold on to- everything else is earthly and temporal. The family is eternal.
Another thing I have really come to love and appreciate this week is the difference between the fruit and the roots of the Gospel. If we imagined the gospel of Jesus Christ as a big tree- like one of those huge gorgeous ones we saw in Mier Woods in California a few summers ago. The tree of the Gospel is huge and magnificent! The trunk is thick and strong, the branches are many and the fruit absolutely delicious! Most people notice the fruit first thing- it is normally the most colorful, the most delicious, the tangible thing we can hold and eat and see. But the fruit without the branch wouldn't live. The branch without the trunk wouldn't live. The trunk without the roots wouldn't live. There are a lot of absolutely wonderful, magnificent, delicious fruits of the Church of Jesus Christ- youth organizations and welfare and family history and universities and service and beautiful buildings and the Tabernacle Choir and the visitor centers and the historical sites and the history and so on and so on. But these fruits of the Church are nothing without the roots. Many people can copy the fruits, even very well duplicate them, but without the roots of this Church, the fruits won't live. What are the Roots of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Jesus Christ and His resurrection, God as our eternal Father, Joseph Smith and his predecessors as Prophets of God and the Priesthood power they hold, the Family as the central social unit. We must have solid roots in order to have delicious fruit. Some of the investigators in the ward right now are extremely focused on the fruit- the welfare program or the social interactions at church. And while these are all great and essential parts of the Church, a firm foundation of God Father, His Son Jesus Christ, Their prophets and the eternal role of the family, and a burning testimony of the same is what converts people to the truth. That testimony is what leads people for the right reasons to make sacred covenants with God. We are working with these investigators to make sure their roots are firm and deep, that their testimony in the essentials is firm and first, and then the wonderful fruits of the Gospel can be explored and enjoyed after that. And speaking of covenants, we will be able to go to the temple tomorrow! I love going to the temple and remembering the sacred covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father.
We were able to meet Raza and Lina this week- two people that are ready for baptism! Raza lived in Düsseldorf and had his baptism all set up and planned, but needed to move down here with his father. He will be baptized in a few weeks. Lina's boyfriend lives in Colorado and she has been to church many times before. She wants to learn more, and is letting her parents know that she want to join the church. They were both at Alicia's baptism this last weekend, and felt the Spirit so strong- Bob and Luisa are also preparing for baptism at the end of March. This is how the work of the Lord works! It works through miracles. It is done one by one. I used to wish that we could convert everyone at once and solve all of their problems all at once. But that is not the way of the Lord. His ways are the best, His ways are most effective and lasting. His ways are one by one.
The prophets and apostles have promised and prophecied that this area of the world would grow in the gospel and the Church would again be strong here. I believed that before I came here to Germany. I believed it months ago in Mönchengladbach. And I believe it now, as prophecies are continuing to be fulfilled. I am so grateful to be here at this time. The Lord works in great ways- normally putting the right person in the right place at the right time in order to do His work. I have come to understand that more clearly recently. The Lord has also greatly humbled me and shown me things I need to change, fix and work on. This mission truly is the best two years FOR my life! These miracles, these changes, these life and eternal lessons and experiences all began for me with a prayer of faith. And that's how this whole work got started- Joseph had a question and he prayed in faith. I know it is true! Miracles are brought by a prayer of faith. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that God is there and hears and answers every prayer.
Thanks for your prayers and love- the people of Germany are benefiting from it as well!
Monday, March 5, 2012
...and it all began with a prayer of faith.
Liebe Famile und Freunde: