Believe it or not, I found my way to church via the Strassenbahn today. And I didn’t even have to call the Sister Missionaries. Turns out the #5 tram dumps you off exactly behind the church. I mean you could throw a stone at it from the station. Not that you’d want to. If I wasn’t listening so intently for name of the stop the RNV website gave me the other day (German words don’t usually sound like they look), I would have seen the church steeple from the window.
Imagine my dumbfoundedness. It’s a constant state I live in.
In case you are curious about my misguided adventure, the church is on “Wieblinger weg” not to be confused with “Wieblingerweg” as the church website and most likely the German post office has it listed. Google Maps and the RNV know what they’re doing if you give them the correct version of the street.
I didn’t really have to take the Strass today, what with my newly acquired driver’s licence, but I was determined to figure the route out just in case I had to go that way some day. I also had the time. It made going to church a 5 hour event, but now we know.
There are two wards from Heidelberg and it’s surrounding suburbs, the German ward and the military ward. Both wards share the above church house. Our ward is made up of mostly U.S. families based in in this area, but also some non-Germans who live in Heidelberg and aren’t comfortable enough with the language to attend the German ward. So far I know of a single guy from England, a couple from Spain (I think), and two sets of full-time missionaries who are not associated with the military in any way.
The senior missionary couple has been called on a 2 year mission to assist the Young Single Adults in the German ward. They conduct Family Home Evening, dinner, and other activities once a week. I sat by the sister today and she said she does a lot of cooking and doesn’t have to speak German because all the YSA’s speak English. That explains why they attend our ward and not the German ward.
The sister missionaries are assigned just to our ward since it covers a lot of area and a diverse group of people. Besides the Army, the Americans here are working for NATO, the Air Force, government contractors and private civilian companies.
There are several things that impress me about this ward so far.
Most evident is the way the sacrament prayers are given. You can tell that the priests have been instructed to enunciate each word and speak slowly. I’ve never heard the prayers said so consistently clear before. It amplifies the sacredness of the ordinance.
Second is related to the first– the youth. Wow! Several of them have shared their testimonies or given sacrament meeting talks. After hearing the first few, I started to keep track and so far, every one of them have spoken with such confidence and expressed themselves so well. I am in awe of them.
This ward is so transient that after sacrament meeting is over, even before the postlude music is played and people disperse to classes, the member of the bishopric conducting asks for anyone new or visiting to stand up and introduce themselves so everyone can hear who they are. I love it.
We’ve never been so immersed in military life and there are a lot of things I am unfamiliar with (like the gagillion acronyms), but one thing I am getting used to is being asked and asking the questions, “Where did you come from?” and “How long will you be here?” There aren’t many who will be here for less than 3 years, but we’re happy that the church brings together so many people from so many different areas.
Alan and I have been asked to fulfill some wardly duties. That means we’re more likely to get attached to people than we might have otherwise. And then abandon them.
I met a gal at the church party yesterday who, when she learned we would only be here for a year, said “You better get busy!” That we should.
I have a feeling this year is going to be like a college May-mester– life in fast-forward and lessons compressed to make sure you get the full course credit.
What I love most though is the realization that no matter what country I visit, even though I may not know the language, the interpretation of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” displayed on the outside of the building will always be recognizable and comforting.
And after being surrounded by a strange language and everything else foreign, you can walk into the building and feel the familiar enveloping sense that the Lord’s purposes are being fulfilled in that place. Never before has that fact meant more to me than now.
(Photos taken from this guy.)