Friday, December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007 The Blessings

(Our little Christmas tree)
First and foremost we want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! We hope the spirit of Christ abounds in your life this day, Christmas Day and everyday of your lives. If the spirit of Christ is in our lives then we are certain that the New Year will be a happy one indeed!

The damp cold rainy days hve left us for a little while! Out of over a month of stay in Baumholder we had actually seen the sun on only two days. Pam was feeling a bit sun deprived! Then, seven days ago the sun came back. We have had (counting today) seven days with sunshine! It has been cold and windy some times but the sun has been out. The days are short here (shorter than Utah). The sunrise is late in the day and then the sun goes away pretty early - but it has been nice.

Christmas in Germany is very nice! There are many decorations but not as much commercialization as we see back in the states. The stores have some Christmas items but there doesn't seem to be the mad drive to flood everything with "you must have this". Additionally we are told that if we want things we should get them before the holiday. The German stores will be closed Christmas eve, on Christmas and the day after Christmas. We understand that some gas stations will be open but don't expect to get anything else. The Germans consider Christmas a time to be together as a family, and there are not big gatherings as much as it is "the family". Perhaps a couple of friends might visit but there is not normally a big gathering. It will be pleasant to see how it goes!

Our motto has been much like Ammon who told King Lamoni in Alma 18:17. He said in part, "...I am a man, and am thy servant; whatsoever thou desirest which is right, that will I do." We basically say "We are missionaries, and are thy servants; whatsoeever thou desirest which is right, that will we do."

We have been doing a great variety of things! Here are a few of the things we have done: taught Relief Society (Pam of course), taught Priesthood (me of course), talked in Sacrament meeting, taught Primary twice (both of us), taught Sunday School, cleaned the meeting house, visited and visited familes (especially those whose husbands have been gone), taught with the young elders, fed the young elders a few times, attended missionary meetings, wrapped Christmas presents on post for children in need, worked at the post thrift store, visited weekly with the senior post chaplain.

And to top all of that off - we have been working our way through the system to do all that we are supposed to here. Because we are legal aliens here we have to register in each city we live in. When we first got here we were registered in Frankfurt and so we have had to change that to Baumholder. We now have our residence permit so we can stay in the country.

When in Germany we have to pay taxes on the items we buy at the US commissary, Post Exchange etc. To do that we had to register and it was a multi-step process! So we have completed all of those steps. Left ahead of us are getting a German drivers license and a German bank account. (Those steps could not be tackled until we were registered in Baumholder) Oh, the tax rate for the items purchased on the US military is 13%. The tax rate for items purchased off post that all Germans are taxed on is 19%. (They show the price of things with the tax in it so there isn't a surprise when you get to the checkout!) 'Makes the taxes back home seem a little better.

Gas prices fell for a bit! The prices reached a high of about $8.40 per gallon and then fell to about $7.50 per gallon! They have come back to the $8.00 per gallon level and have stayed there the last few days. We are not sure why the dip - but I thought it was moving in the right direction!

The road through life is never going to be all clear sailing with good winds and sunny skies but there are periods of times when it happens and it seems appropriate to express gratitude for those days! One of the amazing things that has happened to us is that we have been blessed with the things we needed just when we needed them. It has seemed almost like as soon as we knew we needed something the Lord provided it. Like the children of Israel when they were traveling in the wilderness and the Lord provided them with manna. Let me give you a few examples.

We were missing a door handle for one of our closet doors - right around the corner we found a door being thrown out with just the right handle. We needed a chair for our desk - right out in front of the building next to ours was an office chair being thrown out - not the color I would choose but it is in perfect condition. We wanted a full length mirror to check to see how clothes looked - one was being thrown away just around the corner. We got a land line telephone and needed something to put it on - on one of our walks we found a small dresser being thrown out. We needed a coat rack - we found one being thrown out that fits perfectly. The list goes on and on: two cabinets to use as night stands, some shelves for our storage area, and there are more items.

The amazing thing is that the items appear as we find the need for them. We didn't find shelves when we needed a door handle etc. We have been blessed with just what we need when we need it. Clear sailing will never prove the skill of a sailer and an easy life will never prove the metal of a person but there are times when the Lord blesses us beyond what we could expect.

When we are in service to others, when we are giving of ourselves, the sailing seems to be the best. It has been so for us. The Lord has truly been mindful of our needs and has helped us in our service to others. What a humbling experience it is to be of service to the young military families who are giving so much for us. It reminds me of what Winston Churchill said of the RAF during the Battle of Britain....."Never have so many owed so much to so few". The military is very small numerically but they are all that stands between freedom and those who would take freedom from all others of the world. Wars and tactics can be debated but the sacrafice of those who serve can never be doubted. They are seperated from loved ones for long periods of time, enter into harm's way knowing they might not return, and live in conditions that most would absolutely refuse to endure. Their families bear the burdens as well! They support their loved ones knowing that there is risk they could lose them, hold the families together in their absence, move when and where told to, and endure long periods of loneliness and seperation. I hope all will remember them each and every day we sit safely with our families in our comfortable circumstances. They desrve our prayers and our full support! Yes, for our day our military men and women are the few that all the free world owes so much to. It is an honor to serve those who sacrafice so much! If we can only lighten their burdens a little it will be well worth our time here!

Our blessing and love to all,

Elder & Sister Karn