Friday, August 29, 2008

Welcome Sister Longhurst!

Sister Longhurst, (right) joined Sister Walker this week, and we think she is great! Here they are in our apartment last Sunday night for a planning meeting with us. They are in the process of getting our district organized to contact young adults on the university campus. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and we see the possibility of good things happening.
I had the priviledge of going with them Thursday to teach Maria, a wonderful woman with two teenage sons. She has a spirit of love and humility about her, and I think she is a good prospect for membership. It is always a priviledge to hear the sisters teach. They know the gospel, they understand the conversion process, and they just are excellent teachers! It is a blessing to be involved with them.
The beginning posts of our blog have shown readers how we got started here, described the beautiful country in which we serve, introduced our missionaries, and told about our involvement in the YSA conference in Germany. This post, we will tell you a little more about the missionary work we are doing.
We have visited every ward in our institute area several times. We attend, and have led gospel discussions in a couple of the YSA Sunday school classes, and we think we are gaining the trust of these amazing young people, who are so key to reactivation and missionary work among their age group. They know we are here and that the outreach center is up and running again, after having been without a missionary couple for a year. In the Sunday School classes, we have started asking them to prayerfully identify one less active YSA in their ward who would be the most likely to be reactivated, and to contact, invite, fellowship, friendship, and love that person into activity. We know of one less active who came to church at least once as a result of our visiting with her.
We are sending birthday cards. We make birthday phone calls to the YSAs we know personally.
Last week, Elder Grassli and I helped Brother Gregor Weidmann, the current Bern Institute Director, prepare a letter that went to all the YSAs in our institute area inviting them to institute and telling them what will be going on this semester. Beginning this week, we will have Family Home Evening on Mondays, institute classes on Tuesdays (we will prepare dinner for them on Tuesdays) and Wednesdays (dessert), and we are going to try having open night Fridays (they bring treats, we provide drinks), where they can come for waffles (seem to be a real hit here!), movies, games, concerts, dances, and other special events, or just to hang out in a wholesome and safe environment. Other successful outreach centers in Europe have open night Fridays and find this a good way to motivate YSAs to bring less active and non-member friends, so we are hoping our young friends here will enjoy these, as well.
We are in the process with the sisters of developing a new flyer for "Inschti Bern" that they can pass out on the campus.
We have been trying recipes at home that we think the YSAs might like. The challenges of limited cooking and serving utensils, difficulty in finding familiar ingredients, a tiny oven (all Swiss ovens are small, I guess!) and a range with unfamiliar dials, only add to the adventure.
This week we have cleaned, rearranged, had painted, bought some furniture for, and generally prepared the outreach center for the beginning of the new semester.
The Lord is blessing us with good health and good friends to help us, and we can't think of anything we would rather be doing right now.
We think this is the ideal mission for us!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Home, Sweet Home!

Soon after we arrived, we bought geraniums for the balcony. It helped us feel at home, since we have geraniums on our balcony at home in Utah. Then we talked to the landlord, who agreed to have the apartment painted a fresh, pretty white, which they did three days after we asked. That was a nice gift, because we had had so many frustrations about then, that we needed something to work the first time!

We went to IKEA and bought (for the mission)a new rug, a cover for the sofa, and a red throw for accent. You know me--gotta have red somewhere. Then we added a Monet print and some plants, and voila! A pretty, fresh, uncluttered, new-feeling little living room that smells clean!

We are very content.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Goodby Sister Harwood and Elder Pine

Well, we knew it had to happen sometime! Sister Harwood (right) and Elder Pine (center rear) have been transferred. So of course we had to have a district photo before they left. Aren't they all just so cute!! Elder Pine treated us all to a proper English breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, bread, tomatoes, mushrooms
Caught before the staging was complete!
Day trip to Aarberg. Click on the photo and you can see a closeup of the covered bridge.
Sister Grassli relaxing by our little Toyota Yaris, and overlooking the countryside. On a sunny day, we just have to squeeze it in. Life is short!

Last week we went to Germany near Paderborn for a Young Single Adult Conference. It was an eight hour trip on the train, which is ever so much more comfortable than a plane. We (the faculty) were housed in this lovely old schloss (castle) seen here from the entrance gate to the courtyard. Our room was nice and it had a TV! The first we have seen for 10 weeks. Not that we love TV, but it's nice to get the news on a screen bigger than our laptop. We actually got to see Michael Phelps swim, so we felt rather lucky!
A look at the interior of the castle.

Dancing at the conference ball with my favorite partner!

Together at the podium for our fireside. They had us and our translator in headsets. Great system. First time for us. We got a little frisky in our presentation, which was about marriage. Leonard, basically shy, was enjoying himself and we were feeling all warm and lovey, when, near the end of the talk, he did something totally unexpected and out of character for him. He turned to me and said, "Do you want to kiss me?" I leaned in and gave him a little kiss, and the kids applauded and hooted. Since then, Lenski keeps saying "I really don't know where that came from!" He is convinced that my mother on the other side of the veil, in all her sponteneity, pushed him! There are so many YSAs here who have never seen a happy marriage, that we were asked to talk about our ups and downs and how we work things out. It wasn't intellectual, but I think they got the idea. They seemed to like it and many told us so for the next three days.

On the way home we had a wait at the bahnhof and treated ourselves to ice cream. It's absolutely out of this world here! We have to restrain ourselves and only indulge on speial occasions, no oftener than once a month.
Some of our great Swiss YSAs at the dinner before the ball. You guys clean up real pretty!
One of the herd of adorable little deer in the paddock just under our castle window. This is one of the larger adults, probably about three feet tall at the shoulder. The does were smaller and there were about ten babies. So darling.
Teaching leadership in the "Literatur Cafe." Lenski had a class, too, but we forgot to record it, darn!
I love this guy!
There was a cheerleading workshop going on behind us. I couldn't imagine that any Europeans would be interested because there is no such thing as competetive sports or cheerleading in school. But these two cute American high school cheerleaders had girls and boys in all their classes. And they had such fun! There were institute classes, culture and the arts, marriage and dating, parenthood, preparing for business, career planning, and more! About half the time was sports of some kind, from soccer, to hiking (one was at midnight), to canoeing, and much more. There was a fireside followed by something fun every night except Friday, when they had the dinner dance. It was five and a half days, and the young people just did a teriffic job of putting it all together. I am so impressed with their capability. It is amazing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Miscellaneous Musings (Wow, do I sound ancient?)

Historic homes in Ballenberg.

A rack for drying hay.

A roof made of hewn rock shingles.

It was a great day--our p-day at Ballenberg, an outdoor interactive museum of historic Swiss houses, with the sisters.
One of our quick trips to the countryside. Yummm!

Mowing the hay.

Elders Pine and . . .
Jensen hard at work.

With President Matern outside the temple.

They seemed to enjoy the lasagne! They just just love being together for any reason!

They sound amazingly good! Moms, can you believe what you see?

Missionaries training (having fun) at the last zone meeting.
Elder G. figuring budget at our desk in the center.
A walk in the forest.
We had a week of great missionary togetherness. Sunday we missionaries rehearsed for our upcoming musical fireside. Monday we took the sisters to Ballenberg, Tuesday we cooked lasagne for the district (and guests)to have after our district meeting, and Thursday was interviews with President Matern in Zollikofen. "Our" missionaries are so great! Transfers are coming up, and we are afraid a couple of them will be transferred, because nobody was, last transfer. We don't want to loose them. It's interesting how they all measure their time served by transfers. "I've been in this district for five transfers." Or, "I've been with this companion for three transfers." Or, "I have four transfers left until I go home."
Today we studied and prepared for the YSA conference in Germany. We will be teaching a total of four presentations, with repeats of two. One is a fireside, and we will be at the podium together. We think it will be fun!

After our study, we took a ride out into the countryside. Around Bern, it is mostly level farmland, little rolling hills that remind me of prairie, with forests nestled between. We walked a little. We were walking in the forest when Lenski pointed out a wildflower plant that when you touch the tiny seed pod, it explodes with a startling pop, and throws its seeds out. I did it over and over to try to see exactly what happens when it pops, but it happened too fast. It was a pod, then suddenly it was a curly mass of green with little black seeds in my fingers. We talked about our grands and how much fun they would have popping those pods!

We got off on a little trail and were in a little village that no one would see if they didn't live there. We could see close up the evidence of farm life (I'll have to paint a word picture, because I forgot to take pics!)--the barn, the round hay bales (these were bound in white plastic and look like giant marshmallows), the broom leaning on the gate, the pan of potatoes on the chair just outside the door, the farmer walking sideways on the hill behind his motorized hay mower, his wife walking behind with a huge stick broom pulling it into rows, the lone cat hunting mice in the newly cut field, the little kitchen garden with half the lettuce cut. It's all so beautiful that we have to go out every other day or so for just a little while! We think we deserve it! And it's only 20 minutes from downtown Bern!

We listened to Barber's Adagio For Strings and Smetana's The Moldau while we were driving, and I'll tell you we were in heaven. The beautiful pastoral countryside with that gorgeous music created something indescribably beautiful for us. Each enhanced the other so perfectly we could hardly stand it! Sara, remember the trip to Philmont listening to Fresh Aire? Heavenly Father certainly knows what he is doing!

This mission stuff is so great for us as a couple! We are not working on separate projects and doing them our own way. We are working on everything together, so that takes lots of compromise and patience and humility from both of us! We are working together in ways we haven't done before. We are on our honeymoon!

The members here are very tech savvy. Every meeting is announced and agendas sent by email. Every handout is a sophisticated computer design. It's probably that way at home too. We just have not been in a posititon to see them. It's just fascinating! We are so glad we have our laptop. I don't know how a couple could survive without one. All the missionaries have mission distributed cell phones, and we are in touch with each other and with the president at the push of a button. We discovered the first morning after we received ours that they are pre-programed to wake us up at 6:30 a.m. It buzzes, then a British woman's voice says, "It's time to get up. The time is 6:30." It repeats every ten seconds until you turn it off. If you don't turn it off, it continues the same announcement, changing the time as it passes. It is impossible to disable this alarm in advance! Believe me we have tried!

We attend a different ward in the stake every week to stay in touch with bishops and YSAs. We are coming to know them and hope we are building some trust. Besides it keeps Sundays from being humdrum. (Humdrum at Church? Nah!)

Institute will start again the end of this month and we are looking forward to having the center busy again. We hope to have some painting and refurbishing done before that time.
Monday we are off to Germany for six days.