Thanks everyone for your patience. We hoped to be adding weekly blog entries long before this. However, we had to wait until we had DSL service in our apartment. Now everything works and hopefully we can also add photos too.
It will be hard to summarize all that has happened in the last month. Let us just say we are settled and comfortable and busily engaged in helping those we came here to help. Our apartment is cozy and we have all the furniture we need, thanks to the mission office and "junk day" here in Baumholder. We also bought a TV and a dvd player so we can occasionally watch a clean movie to relax. We try to take daily walks which on one day turned into 7 miles because the sun was shining. Yes, the weather here can be dreary. It seems to rain almost every day. Or if it isn't raining it is usually cloudy or foggy. When the sun comes out it is absolutely beautiful and we rush outside to enjoy it.
We live in Baumholder (shown in the photo above as viewed from our upstairs apartment) which is about 180 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt. It is directly east (as the crow flies) of Luxembourg city (within Luxembourg) about 80 kilometers or 50 miles. It is not a large community although the post is pretty big. There are many hills and farms and lots of woods. The center of the village has wonderful bakeries and little shops. We have an outdoor Christmas market tomorrow evening (called a Weihnacht Markt) which we are excited to see. Each village has one for a day or two. Big cities have these markets almost all month. It will be German crafts and Christmas wares.
The military post here in Baumholder was once occupied by the German army and was built about 1937 under Hitler's direction. There were 14 villages that were evacuated to clear the area for housing and training. The US has occupied the post since 1945. The US added a few more buildings for housing. The US Army Garrison here in Baumholder is called "Smith Barracks". It is reportedly the largest gathering of combat soldiers outside the US. Most of the soldiers are away training in Grafenwohr for the upcoming deployment scheduled for late February or March. But that may change if Congress does certain things. No need to go on about that. Sometimes we hear the birds singing punctuated by explosions of artillary over the hills. It could be the US Army or it could be the German army, the Bundeswehr, who also have a nearby post. The town of Baumholder exists because of the military. There are many American interests here and many Germans speak English and are grateful for the help the US Military gives to their economy.
Our LDS branch here is mostly attended by the soldier's young wives and their children. Two weeks ago the soldiers were home and we had a very large attendance. It was wonderful. The soldiers aren't often here but it is a big celebration when they are. So, we are often very short on Priesthood. They tell us how grateful they are to have us. We have already spoken in Sacrament Meeting, taught Relief Society and Priesthood (respectively), and taught Primary twice. It is Thursday and we haven't heard what they want us to do this Sunday. Perhaps we will find out Saturday when we go to the meeting house for cleaning detail. Our branch president is a Major in the Air Force. We are finding out how much nicer the Air Force treats their people as opposed to the Army. Anyway, Pres. Nelson and his family are a great strength to the branch. They should be with us until June 2008 when they are expectected to go to the States.
The greatest worry and stress here for the families of the soldiers is the upcoming deployment. For most of the women it will be their first experience. As you can imagine it can be very depressing, wondering from day to day if your husband will survive, especially since most of them haven't been married very long. Even if they do survive, the husbands will have experiences that will change them. Hopefully, we can be a stabilizing influence for the soldiers and their families. That is why we are here.
Germany is a wonderful place to be at Christmas time. They have an appreciation, although mostly traditional, for what Christmas represents. Today is Saint Nicholaus Day. Many years ago he was a Catholic bishop in Turkey who gave gifts to children. He is not Santa Claus. He visits the children and gives them gifts (or places them in their shoes) if they are good or leaves sticks if they are bad. Or, if he comes in person, he may spank the bad child with the sticks. No one around here has seen that happen lately. Then, on Christmas Day, they remember the Christ Child. I like the idea of reserving Christmas for Christ.
We wish you all a wonderful holiday season. May Christ be a part of your daily life.
Elder and Sister Karn