Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Month Gone By and It's February!

WOW - Another Month Bone By w/o BLOG ENTRY!!!

Well, here we are in February 19, 2014 wondering where the time went.
It is acting like Spring here in Wilhelmshaven (WHV), but we don't really know as this will be our 1st. 
We expected  winter somewhat like this:

For instance - we thought we'd have to consider this to get to Church --- and trade in our car for snowshoes :-)

- OR THIS - that schools would be closed and kids would be snowballing everyone on the street, snowplows would be out and running with salt/sand trucks.....

BUT - we got this -- 

Above is a view from our Branch Building on good old Herbartstra├če 83, WHV..

A very nice view from our apartment at the 'backyard' :-)  It's nice not to have to dig out before going anywhere :-)

Temps have been in the high 30's to mid-40's for most of February so far.  So we get plenty of rain - almots every day for some period ---- seldom all day, but if/when the sun does show up, it is for a 2-4 hours and then the clouds roll in again.... and sprinkles or rain for a couple of hours. I think we should at least be able go to the coast and hunt clams or crabs or some such for a beach party with the Branch:-)  
We have been thinking about what can be done to help increase positive visibility for the church in WHV. We also thought of building a house on a hill to be a directional focal point, 
but then thought it may be too difficult for people to get to as there are no 'hills' around WHV that would be suited for such an opportunity.
In fact, the early/ancient people of Friesenland dug large numbers of ditches so the land would drain enough they could use it.  It was part for agriculture and part as a defense the ditches/canals might give them as they struggled to survive in this area. The water table is VERY HIGH - but in spite of that, almost all houses, apartments, and such have cellars. That's more than we could say about Texas:-) -- at least where we live.
WHV is an interesting example of what once was in high demand (the seaport and much industry) is now a place that has high populations in summer for the sea air, but basically retirees and young people who haven't left to go on their own yet. There are loads of unoccupied apartments - and even buildings. So many have to leave WHV to find work that the contrast of the populations seems somewhat evident as we walk around town, go shopping, etc. etc. We fit right in with the 'old people' retirees, but we find the folks here to be a bit withdrawn except for people they have known for years. Makes it a litle difficult to strike up a conversation, so we are hoping for inspiration that we will be able to help find those who are willing to consider 'outside' thoughts to their traditions, habits, schooling, etc. etc. etc.  

We pass our business cards to people who seem friendly and possibly receptive, and try to see if they would like to meet and chat, or come by the church to see what it is and how the meetings are experienced, and so on.

Our church information at the entryway to the building.  We and the Branch leadership are working on making it more attractive - however, everyone really wants a new, one-story building with everything on one floor. This would be wonderful, but we sort of have a Catch-22.  If we don't have - or get - more actively participating members to attend, and we can't demonstrate success in WHV, would it be the best decision to use church funding (member tithes, offerings, etc) to build -- or should we look to rent something appropriate, or should we put missionary efforts into a different area of Germany?  Not ours to reason out, but we can understand the apparent dilemma.

We did spruce it up a bit by obtaining a very nice picture of the Savior, getting it framed, and placing it over the inside entry to the chapel main meeting room. 

Here- Elder Meeks (L) points out the best practice ideas of hanging pictures to Sister Porter and Elder Matthews.

Happy faces of the perpetrators of picture hanging in the Branch building.  AND YES - we had the Branch President's concurrence and appreciation for doing this for the Branch.
Of course, as expected, some of the older members did not particularly care for 'change' of the building they have grown accustomed to. We did it because there were many who were asked and thought it would be a wonderful idea. So --- the Hymn, "Do What Is Right" and let the consequence follow came to mind and we felt great about the gesture and the effort.
It is interesting to think of all the challenges the Old Testament prophets had with Israelite attitudes. Then follow that with the Savior himself, his apostles and their writings and records of the people at the meridian of many challenges with members of the church. Certainly our present dispensation is no different and we consider these things as the natural course of things:-)  

This is a map of our AREA:-)  That's a lot of turf to cover for working with members, helping wiht the Home and Visiting Teaching efforts, and trying to help all better understand the gospel beyond saying the words and quoting the scriptures.  We hope that we can help with the REAL GROWTH of the church and its members in this area of the vineyard and still look forward to doing what we can, in all appropriate ways, to develop what needs to be done to convert a District into a Stake.  This is quite a challenge and we look forward to doing our part:-)

One of the many good things Sister Porter came up with, is to have Branch Luncheon after church. There are some who travel fairly long distances to be at church every Sunday. It is also a popular thing in Germany to do so - but it has sort of fallen off the turnip truck in this area. Well, that is no deterrent - our mantra is, "why is interesting and worth knowing - but why not is even of more interest".... In short, we had our first one for 2014 last weekend and the food was great. We did enchiladas with refried beans - well anyway that's what we called it. We don't have all the ingredients available here, so we improvised: we were able to buy tortillas and cans of kidney beans, tomato sauce, chili powder and a couple of other interesting spices. However, they don't care much for spicy in Germany, so Sister Porter served as the :worthy food taster" and it was not spicy - bland would be a much better word, but it was tasty:-)
We did the refried beans via draining them all, then getting our biggest frying pan and potato masher, and we created a form of refrieds:-)  They were tasty too, but neither was quite the real thing. We decided we could make that our secret and hope the Missionaries wouldn't comment. All went well:-)  The members kept asking if it was Lasagna and I would tell them, "Yes, Mexican Style".  They ate and enjoyed. There was one table for salads, one for main courses, plates, silverware, drinks, etc; and one for dessert. I really liked the dessert table best and it's beginning to show!!
Here are pictures from the EVENT --- 

We have heard of no reports of hospitalization AND there were no food fights.

It was a very pleasant time and so many pitched in that it was hard to get into the kitchen or do dishes. All was cleaned up nice and tidy and we hope it is the beginning of a sense of 'new beginnings', along with the Sunday School, Institute, the picture, and some changes in leadership. This could get very interesting and we hope to see 
much more in smiles, laughs and overall happiness emanating from WHV Branch:-)

Sister Porter now has a celebration for the RS Birthday in March coming together. The RS will have the whole of Sacrament Meeting for speakers, etc.  We have been visiting members and sharing invitations with them. One sister looked dumbfounded and said she couldn't remember the last time WHV had celebrated this event. We know it is not her memory, as a few others have said similar things. This sister, however, wanted to know why and I told her it is a form of "restoration" of the gospel. She gave me a 1,000 points and it is the first time we have ever heard her laugh:-)

We wish all well and hope to keep our sense and sense of humor as we go forward in this work and on this errand -  be well and God bless..

The Porters in Germany

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