Glück auf! I am HOME! I am in the East again!
I actually thought that the other day. I talked to some people on the street and heard the funny accent and recognized all the old buildings around me and I thought, “I am home now.” But then I remembered that home is actually back in California. I am just so excited to be back in East Germany! I don’t know what makes it so, but I am so excited to leave yet one more piece of my heart in Saxony.
WAH! What a week though! I think I spent more collective time in other cities than I did in Freiberg this week. At the beginning of every chapter in the scriptures there is a shot summary. Here is mine for this weeks letter:
Elder Hoffman spends Monday in Bielefeld. – He travels from Minden to Dresden via train all day. – He spends the following day in Freiberg. –Wednesday is District Leader Training in Dresden. – Thursday he travels to Halle. – Saturday is spent in Berlin with Elder Bednar and traveling back. – Sunday’s Stake Conference is in Dresden.
Now for the meat of my week!
I took a train to Minden, dropped Elder Lawyer off to spend the day with the Elders there until his companion came. Then I sat… on a train… for 4 hours… until I got to Dresden Hauptbahnhof. Then Elder Gerberding and I traveled down to Freiberg – about another hour. And, since the weather was nice, we played basketball with some Chinese people. I was terrible. But now I will have to learn. The court where we play basketball is actually right across the street from the Temple. It was SO COOL! So the church, the Temple, and the “Herberge” or the apartment building for people attending the Temple from far away are all on the same 3-4 acre piece of land.
Wednesday we had our District Meeting and the Meissen Elders came out to Freiberg to go to the Temple after our meeting. We wanted to check session times for them and walked into the entry way of the Temple. Just stepping about two yards into the Temple had its own special feeling. Granted I haven’t been in a Temple for a long time, of course…. After I left, I can’t remember what I did, but I felt something in my suit pocket. So I reached in and found €30!!! See that! Blessings of the Temple already! Plus I am just forgetful and leave stuff everywhere. Ask my companions. I forget where everything is.
Thursday we went BACK to Dresden for Elder Gerberding’s District Leader Training. I left and went finding with Elder Rosenvall (spelling…?). We just walked around. Neither of us were from Dresden and thus did not know where to go. So we kind of got lost in this park across from the Stake building. We found a zoo. And right at the entrance was a Oragatang. That was the highlight of my day, basically.
Friday. Oooohhh…. Friday! Friday was the day that I finally finished reading the Book of Mormon in German – all 702 pages! I am so proud of my scriptures now. Looking back through my study journal and the notes in my Buch Mormon, I really did learn a lot about being a disciple – for that is what we read and studied together as a mission. I will start slowly reading the Old Testament now and keeping a study journal along with that. I can truly testify of a study journal as a companion while studying the holy scriptures. If you have not already made it a practice, go out and find a nice notebook that you will be excited to write in. Make it fun. Make it your own. And write down what you learn and want to apply. There is something special in transforming thoughts into words and then using them later in talks, testimonies, letters, etc. As I finished reading my Buch Mormon, I thought of one of the three talks which Elder David A Bednar asked us to read before he came to visit. It is called “Seek Learning by Faith.” Here is described how we can build our own faith and then help others build faith.
Heavenly Father does not give us direct answers – not always. He makes us find our own answers. The Lord did not help the Jews carry the Tabernacle across The River Jordan until after they got their feet a little wet. Joseph did not see God and Jesus Christ until he prayed alone in the sacred grove. The Brother of Jared brought forth the stones himself and proposed his idea on how to light the boats as they crossed the ocean. Likewise, we as full-time and member-missionaries need to “facilitate learning processes so that they can know for themselves (Joseph Smith History 1:20),” like President Kosak explained to us on Saturday.
And this is exactly what we talked about with Elder Bednar on Saturday. All he really did was ask questions about what we learned from these three talks and facilitated learning processes for us, so that we could learn from the Spirit. That meeting was so amazing. Like I have said in other posts, our mission is so large – in land and in the number of missionaries (about 280), that we are actually not allowed to meet as an entire mission. We were all so very excited to be there together. To all listen to President Kosak, Elder Dyches of the Area Presidency, Elder Bednar and their wives together, in the same room. Such a meeting will not ever happen again in this mission for a very long time. The unity we felt as we all sang together was so strong. We waited quietly fo 15 minutes before Elder Bednar came in. We all stood up as he walked into the room. As I watched him walk to the pulpit, I felt such a strong confirmation from the Spirit – that burning in your bosom – that he was a chosen Apostle of the Lord – just like Peter or Matthew or John. He instructed us from on high. He invoked a blessing upon us. And what touched me the most, he commended us for the focus that we have and what he have been doing as a mission. I think we all left that meeting standing a little taller. The Spirit was there answering our questions and giving us words. I am eternally grateful fo this experience that I have had on my mission. Elder Dyches said that when we are asked in our Temple Recommend interviews if we support the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the Church, we will have a face to put to that. We can say, “I know one of them, he instructed me as a missionary, and I know he is an Apostle of the Lord.” I know, independent of any other being or institution, that this Church is true and that everything which I have now written is true – namely that there are Apostles again on the earth to instruct us through the Spirit and the will of God. I had that same burning feeling as he left the room while we all stood; I felt like we all wanted him to stay just a little longer because of the wonderful time we all had with him.
Sunday was yet another special day for me. We had our Stake Conference in Dresden. I was able to see so many people from “Schwarzenberg family.” They really are like my family members in Sachsen (in Saxony). It was so great to see them and surprise them with my presence. What struck me the most, however, was that they remembered me! That touched me so much. Every Sunday I stood by the door – rain, snow, sunshine – and greeted the members as they walked into the Church. Schwester Wetzel always said, “Schön daß Sie strahlen!” (Basically… It is great that you shining!). Without hesitating, she said that and it brought the warmest memories of those days there back to me.
There is a work for me to do here in Freiberg though. I know it. I want to stress however my knowledge of the truthfulness of this Gospel. I do know independent of any other body what is here is true: God is our Father. Christ is His Son. Christ died fo us. And that this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the restored church that Christ established during His earthly ministry. It is for all.
Elder Dyches came to visit Dresden in the mid-seventies. As he described again on Sunday in Dresden at Stake Conference, the road that led from West Germany to East Germany (into Dresden) was still marked with ruins from the WWII bombings. Today, they are nowhere to be seen. One would never even notice. The Atonement is real. We can repent and have our sins be forgotten and forgiven. It doesn’t matter what we have done. God does not care. He just wants YOU to come back. His love for you is unimaginable. We all have skeletons in our closets; we all have scars. But, with time and the proper attention, they heal perfectly. Let us realign our eyes towards the Temple, towards the House of the Lord, where we can receive instruction and power from on high as we make special covenants with God.
Today, Elder Gerberding and I had the special opportunity to assist in the first day of cleaning the Temple. Today, I was privileged to help take apart the chandelier in the Celestial Room and one of the two sealing rooms and wash, dry, and re-hang all of the crystals. I feel like they really were not that dirty to start with; but they did shine so much brighter afterwards. There was really no Gospel principle that i could apply to what we did. Simply participating in such a work was so scared. Seeing all the crystals, cleaned, with their shiny golden hook and chains was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Greater than any other sunrise or sunset or painting. And seeing everyone handle them with such care and dressed in white is an experience I wish on every creature!
I love you all. Please do those things which the Spirit invites you to do. We must be agents, not objects who wait to be acted upon. God made the plan already. There is no need fo us to make our own plans. He has already taken care of that part for us.
Elder RR Hoffman
Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage
Germany Berlin Mission