Liebe Freunde u. Familie!
Well… this week a little bit of a rough one.
Monday started out really well! We spent our Pday with an older couple. They both had spouses that died and then married each other a little later. The husband is not a member and his wife is one of the best Joint Teachers/ member missionaries I have ever met.
We walked through the Senne Forest with them and Herr Schlauske. showed us all these different healing plants and trees. It was super interesting and I loved it! Then we went back to their house for a lunch/early dinner: potato salad, Würstchen, and ice cream. We just started talking about why we were here in Germany as missionaries, how we found out that this is the true Church, and how Herr Schlauske could find out as well. Then, Schwester Meixner did something that I will never forget. She was talking about how important it is for her husband to know for himself that this is true and then she said, “Wolfgang, the missionaries have… how many lessons is it now?” We told her 5. “They have FIVE lessons that they are prepared to teach people. When can we make an appointment out for them to come to our home again so that you can listen to them?” BWAHHH!!!!! We are going to start teaching him on Wednesday and I really hope we can help him. I think he knows this all true; he worked in politics for a very long time and is just very used to finding what is wrong and fixing it through bureaucracy… which is not how the Church works. I am excited!
Then… Tuesday. That’s when the week took a gradual downward spiral. We met with our blind investigator. We were excited for the appointment and it went fairly well. We found out that he is having a hard time believing in God because of past experiences. But he still wants to meet. I don’t think I have ever really had to help someone believe in God and develop a relationship with him. So it is kind of interesting and makes me ask myself about how I developed a relationship with Heavenly Father and can I can improve it.
Wednesday we had our District Meeting. Sister Hansen has been very sick the last two weeks, so she and her companion (Sister Wilson from Australia) have been home-ridden. (And this is Sister Hansen’s last week in Germany!) She just sat in the other room because she has to cough so much and let Sister Wilson join us in the meeting since this is her first transfer and second District Meeting! Afterwards, we all had to take a Language Assessment Program. We as missionaries have to do this every 12 weeks now so the Church can see how we are progressing in our langauge skills. That took FOREVER with all 5 of us (Elder Kock is from Switzerland and doesn’t need to take it!) We were talking about this with our American GML (Ward Mission Leader) and turns out he is part of the genius behind it. He specializes in just this. It’s exactly what he does at the University here! Recording speech and creating programs to recognize the intonations, speech patterns, grammatical elements and structures, and so on. Super interesting! Right now, people listen to it and score it. But he is working on the program that just hears our voices and then grades it automatically. Meanwhile I was all… “I studied politics a little bit at school….” Ha! Maybe I should study something a little more smart. (Just kidding!)
On Thursday we went to Schloß Holte (Schloß = castle) and worked there for the whole day. Summer is definitely here now! It was VERY VERY hot. We spent most of our time just trying to figure out the buses there. I made sure that we took breaks in the shade. Then the next day we went to Detmold. I took an ice cream break there and had some very yummy ice cream made from all natural ingredients… and made by an italian man – like all ice cream here! Detmold is a very pretty city and looks just like what I pictured Germany would look like. We will go back and visit a less active member or two who were busy that day.
Sunday, as always, was a special day where I learned a lot. Br. Westermann gave such a great talk that I hope to NEVER forget. He talked about the scripture Moses 1:39, found in the Pearl of Great Price:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Sometimes, this does not only involve the joyful, spirit-filled moments, but it also includes moments of correction and restitution. He told of a less active family that he visited as a missionary in Münich as an Elder. The wife finally asked him one day, “What do you think of us?” His american companion looked at him and said that he could speak better German and should answer them. He bore his testimony of the restored Gospel and told them what they thought and said after meeting with them every time. From then on, the couple came to Church and did all that they could to understand the doctrine better. Sometimes we have to say bold things.
That comforted me. Sometimes we get so caught up becoming perfect. It is important to remember that not all will reach perfection in this life. We must rely on one another to learn and be comforted. So often we forget how desperately we need one another – as family members, friends, fellow church members, and neighbors. That “His work and His glory.” All that we do is – and must be – intended with the end goal of “immortality and eternal life,” regardless how much smaller goals may dot the path before us.
As a missionary right now, I try very hard to look out for my colleagues. We are all in the same boat: far from home, sleep-deprived, and stressed; but we are so happy to be here and know that this is the place for us for these 18-24 months. We don’t need to fight or snicker or any of that. It’s the same here on the earth. We are all children of God, who once lived with God, came to earth through a veil of forgetfulness, and must find our way back. Many have already; many have not.
After Church, we ended up talking to Elder Adler, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and member of the Bielefled Ward. There was an investigator from Poland and wanted us to connect him, via email, with YSA leader there. Then he said something about knowing the mission president, President Edgren, there. Knowing Edgren is not a very common name, I asked where he was from and what his first name was. Turns out it is President Edgren as in… Danville Stake President Edgren! So I got to take a selfie with a Seventy and he sent to Pr. Edgren in Poland! SMALL WORLD!
After Church, we went to go to Familie Wagnitz for lunch/dinner. The had picked up some safe-looking hitchhiker at a concert last week and then invited them to a “German Sunday,” with Church and nice meal afterwards. There are students studying here in Bielefled. One is from Poland and one is from Spain. They were interested in what we were teaching and I hope we can meet once more. It was really interesting! The Polish student was asking why we “knew” everything. Br. Wagnitz kept trying to explain it without teaching the Restoration. I jutted in and said, “Well, there is one thing that we need to explain…” It was perfect! After we ate dinner, Schw. Wagnitz showed him there pictures to America. One stop was Palmyra and she showed the intersection there where there were so many churches. I said, “Remember that photo? Joseph Smith saw that and wondered which one he should go to….” Afterwards, it was so much less hostile and he asked, “Well, what are some of the other characteristics of Church members? What sets you apart?” We made a good friendship. Bottom line, I think it would SUPER cool to have a good friend in Poland! Again, hopefully we can set something up there.
(Sorry for the long email…) As we were counting our numbers for the week (all our lessons and joint teaches and investigators at Church), we realized that ALL the people we taught this week (our most successful week thus far together) are from members! Members at home! GROW YOUR WARDS! The only people I have seen be baptized and actually STAY active are friends and family members of church members. This is the only way we help the work continue to hasten. Open your mouths! (https://www.lds.org/training/wwlt/2013/hastening/members-and-missionaries?lang=eng)
Elder RR Hoffman
Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage
Germany Berlin Mission