While working on a report for work today I had classical music playing in the background. A song came up called “The Dream of You” by Tim Neumark. I had never heard it before, but as I looked out the window and saw the frosty air and blanket of fog settled over the trees and houses in the neighborhood, my mind’s eye went back to Germany nearly 20 years ago.
I was in a very little village called Nidderau. We lived on a hill just above a quaint stream surrounded by trees. In the winter, fog would settle into the valley and snow would fall and the ponds and puddles would freeze which provided some fun for us as we rode our bikes to visit the people we were teaching.
We taught some very great people in that town.
The main preacher was very anti-Mormon and we had some experiences trying to get on the good graces with him. He would preach often against us and we would have people invite us into their homes only to bash with us and try to prove us wrong. At first, as a young 19 year old, I wanted to throw down with him and his congregation and get into verbal bouts. Fortunately at the time my language skills weren’t up to par yet so I was forced to speak the things I could read from scripture. I learned to be patient and loving with people who are our “enemies” through interacting with him. I also learned to love others even if they do not agree with me or even want to try to love me.
We taught a homosexual couple in that town. It was a very good experience for me since I hadn’t been exposed to that where I grew up in a pretty sheltered environment. I learned to be loving and tolerant to people who do not believe or live the same way I do. We had to stop teaching them though when one of them started trying to hit on us…
We also taught some refugees from Africa who were Christians that had been persecuted by the Muslims in their town. One family in particular stands out to me. There were a number of kids in the family. The father was a doctor and had been forced to give up his practice and flee his country. Now he was in a land that looked down on him and didn’t recognize his skills or value him as a person. We shared messages of hope and Jesus with him during the Christmas season very often and I believe he enjoyed our conversations. Since he was a refugee, we couldn’t baptize him, but it didn’t matter to us as long as we provided hope for a better day to him and his kids. While we taught him, I felt the love of the Lord very strongly. I have prayed often over the years that he and his family were able to overcome his challenges and have a strong relationship with the Lord.
The members of our ward (congregation) were particularly supportive. The street we lived on had 4 families in our congregation, including the bishop. We would frequently go over for dinner. In Germany, people love beer and for those interested in being baptized into the Mormon Church giving up beer is something very significant. On many occasions, people choose to drink non-alcoholic beer instead of regular beer.
On one occasion, during Christmas, we visited one of the members of the ward for Christmas dinner. During dinner, I was offered non-alcoholic beer and I accepted the offer. Growing up as an active Mormon I didn’t really have much experience tasting beer so it didn’t really do much for me. However, that night when my Dad called, I thought I would give him a scare and I told him I had drank beer that day (I didn’t clarify it was non-alcoholic). I went on to say that everyone in Germany drinks beer and it was o.k. I could tell he was having a dilemma on the other end of the phone and wondering if he should start preaching to me or remain silent. I think he was just shocked that I would have gone throughout all my teenage years and then go on a mission and decide to start drinking while on a mission! I let him sweat it out for a bit before telling him it was non-alcoholic and at a member of the congregation’s house.
One of the things I most liked during Christmas time in this area was how festive it was. There was a small chapel in the village downtown and there were cobblestone streets with shops that had Christmas lights and German pastries everywhere. During the Christmas season, we, along with people from various churches would come and sing carols downtown as well.
As the song stopped playing, my thoughts snapped back to my job at hand, but for a few minutes it was great to reflect on memorable experiences and feelings I had while serving at Christmas time in Germany as a Mormon missionary.