Sunday, February 24, 2008

February 24, 2008

Here we have an extra large basin in front of the (Episcopalian)Kaiser Dom in Speyer. 1500 or more liters of wine would be poured into the basin whenever there was a new bishop. The town's people would all be invited to partake. I am thinking they brought cups, right? Our tour guide said they got so drunk they fell in. No one was in the bowl when we looked. Supposedly, when a new bishop is put in today, they still fill the basin with wine.

Hello friends and family! Well - we think spring comes early here. Today we saw pansies in bloom and an early blooming tree. I thought those birds were right. The temperature at 2:30 pm today is 53 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Fahrenheit looks like a German word - if so it probably means to drive up or travel up. Fahren means to travel or drive. 'Ready for that! We may yet have some bad weather though. Just the other morning we were looking up the hill from our apartment window and saw a gentlemen sliding down the icy road on his stomach. Thank goodness he was laughing! Ice is a real possibility with clear skies at night. For now, we have the west window in our apartment opened!

Elder Karn had a real fortuitous situation this past week when he dropped into the brigade chaplain's office. We have tried for weeks to catch him and this time he was there! The chaplain was especially helpful and friendly and will make it possible for us to know all the soldiers in the brigade that designated "LDS" on their religious preference. At least we can let them know we have services here and invite them. Whether they choose to come is up to them. And also the chaplain wanted information given to him about the group leaders that will initiate services when the soldiers are "down range" or deployed. We are especially excited about the chaplain's help on these issues. It has taken a lot of ground work to get this far and well worth it.

The deployment is coming up in one month or more. It looks pretty certain that it will happen. The early troops will leave mid-March and the rest in mid-April. One sister, a Lt. in the finance area, has already left for Iraq. Her husband is also a Lt. but with a different unit and he will be deployed a little later. It is a good thing they won't be too far apart on their return. They are a great couple, both graduates of West point and great examples.

The other night we had a birthday party for the branch president. I watched one little family whose father and husband had just returned from his 15 months in Iraq. He was playing with his oldest son, who is 4 years old. They were playing and tickling and the little boy was laughing so hard. It is so great to see a happy ending to his deployment. This is the family where we made a weekly visit while the father was away. We will be very busy visiting fatherless/husband less families once the majority are deployed. We will have just 9 Priesthood male members left in the branch. Of those, 3 are Air Force, 2 work for the Air Force as civilians, 3 are in the Army (a dentist, a helicopter medevac pilot grounded for back trouble, and the recent return from Iraq soldier) and Bruce. Home teaching will be divided among them for the remaining 24 families. The numbers really are reduced because of all the single soldiers leaving too. For those of you not familiar with home teaching, it is where two men holding the priesthood visit certain assigned families every month. They are responsible for the general well being of those families, and report to the leadership of the branch if there are problems or needs. That way everyone is looked after. If the men do their job, it is a great help to the branch president or the bishop. The flock is cared for. A good home teacher is worth his weight in gold.

For those of you also wondering what you can do for the troops when they are down range, "the Department of Defense recommends that you log on to the following web sites to show support, to include greeting cards, virtual Thank You cards and calling card donations to help troops stay in touch with loved ones:
Unsolicited mail, packages and donations from organizations and individuals also compete for limited airlift space used to transport supplies, war-fighting material and mail from family and loved ones. As a booster to force protection, persons are urged not to send any unsolicited mail or packages to deployed service members unless they are family members, loved ones, or personal friends." [Taken from a military publication].

Thank goodness for email! Regular mail from the USA seems to take 2 to 3 weeks. What did missionaries in former ages do? And thanks to you all for tuning in to our blog. We hope you find it interesting, uplifting and at times entertaining. We share a little of what we do as missionaries and little information about what we are learning about Germany. Here are two great finds: Germans believe rules are to be kept not broken! One always says hello and goodbye to the store clerk, or politeness is good!

Have a great week!
Sister and Elder Karn

Sunday, February 17, 2008

February 17, 2008

(Photos from a "P" day in the old German town of Speyer). This "half timbered" house was contructed from timber and then filled in with straw and plaster. It has been restored and looks great.
This is where we had a great German lunch!

Well sports fans, you may not believe it but we have seen the big orange ball in the sky for about a week! Old Mister Sun is alive and well AND visiting Baumholder! How about that! True, with the clear days have come clear cold nights but the sun in the daytime has been worth the cold at night. Besides, that's the time that we are sleeping. It was foggy one morning but eventually the golden sun broke through and we are basking in its glow!

The week has been pressing on in the things that we work at. We continue to try to make friends on post and work with the members of the branch. All of those things are on going projects that are slow and steady progress. I am not even certain where all the time went this week but I can tell you that we were busy!

My work as the branch clerk takes up some of the time and that has certainly been true this week. Today I had a financial audit and so I did some work this week making certain that things were in order the best I could. I am a bit happier tonight - that is behind me!

Pam taught two hours of Primary today and I taught the Young Men. Either one of those jobs can be a challenge. But the highlight of the week came today in the form of visitors. The Area President, Elder Robert C. Oaks,(the man that presides over the church in the central part of Europe who is a retired four star Air Force General) came to our meetings today to speak. (We had the priviledge of meeting him in Frankfurt the day after we arrived in Germany.) He was at a meeting that our branch president was at a couple of weeks ago and when he heard that about 85% of the men here would be deployed to Iraq he offered to come and speak. We were not certain which Sunday he was coming but when we looked out of the windows of the meeting house and saw him sitting in his car talking on the cell phone we were pretty certain it was today!

Anyway, he and his wife spoke in our meetings. They are just wonderful down to earth people who care about others. We even had a chance to visit with them for just a moment. When a person talks with folks like that you just can't help but feel good. They care about people and it shows.

Missionaries are authorizd one "P-day" per week. For those who don't know what a "P-day" is let me explain. Even busy missionaries need a day once a week to get the things done that need to be done so you can run at full speed. Some times they need to clean the apartment, do the laundry, take care of errands or just relax a bit. You know the old thing about taking time to sharpen the axe. Well "P" for preparation sounds better that "Axe-day" so we call it "P-day".

On some P-days there is time for activities. Many of the young missionaries like to play basketball or soccer. We have decided not to do that because we don't want to show off our skills and make the young missionaries feel bad. They would be scared to death of growing older if they saw how poor I was at either one of those sports. So we protect them from the bitter truth of growing older.

This past week we took a P-day and went on a USO tour. I never went on a USO tour in the years I was in the service. We drove to Kiaserslautern and met the group. We were taught how to buy a train ticket and ride the trains in Germany. Buying a ticket needed some explanation but sitting in a seat and looking out the window on the train seemed pretty simple to me. I was able to master that after just a few minutes.

So we went to a town called Speyer. It is an old German city with lots of cool old buildings and history. Some of them were built pretty well - one goes back to the tenth century. That's pretty good construction in most anybody's book!

The town is also known for being the spot where they tried to excommunicate Martin Luther from the church. Some people in town protested and the title "Protestant" came from that. At least that was our guide's story. I believed the story.

Speyer is also supposed to be the home of the pretzel. It seems (again the tour guide's story) that the priests used to fold their arms while praying and they wanted to teach the children to fold their arms so they twisted the bread into an image of folded arms.

I have never been a fan of pretzels. The ones I have had have been dry and hard and tasteless except for some salt. Someone told me to put mustard on them but that just seemed to be mustard on a dry tasteless stick. But while in Speyer I thought I should try the "Real McCoy". I bought a pretzel (they call it a "Bretzel") from a street shop. It was pretty good. I could eat those and I never could see the point of eating those things in a bag that the airlines give you when someone on board is allergic to peanuts!

Since we have been in Germay I had tried German ice cream just once. I bought it in a store and it was terrible. When I buy something I normally fight my way through it no matter what. I add whatever is needed to cover the taste and eat on. I gave up after three trys and threw the ice cream away. I'm telling you it was nasty!

But as I walked by an ice cream place in Speyer I decided to give their ice cream another test. I went in alone and bought a cone. My companion stayed outside and was holding back. When I came out I told my companion that it was very good. "A lick" was requested just to taste it. Then I was told that I should go back inside and buy another cone for myself! I had lost my ice cream cone! Guess what - I went back inside and bought another that no one had taken a "lick" of. It was good. I mean really good! I'm ready for more!

So I can tell that we have had a good week! A good pretzel, a great ice cream cone, sun in the sky, the greatest companion, and work to do that is important! It just doesn't get much better than this! We work to lighten the burdens on our young families that serve our country and the free world and our experiences are sweet!

We miss home and all of you! Our love goes out to you! You are in our prayers and we hope we are in yours.

May the Lord bless and keep you,

Elder and Sister Karn (She is the great companion!!!!!!!)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February 10, 2008

One of three German grocery/variety stores where we do our shopping. Norma has the best produce.
This is our favorite Bakerei and we often stop there to buy a treat or a small loaf of bread when we take a walk in town.

Four days of blue sky and sunshine and counting! The birds are singing like Spring is around the corner. We have been told this is just a teaser so we won't be disappointed when the gray and the drizzle reappear. While it is here, we certainly are enjoying the good weather! 'Never be ungrateful for a sunny day for those of you living out West.

Sister Karn made it through a grueling thorough and intense eye exam at the eye doctor's for her German driver's license while Elder Karn sat in the waiting room, wondering if Sister Karn had been dragged off somewhere. Elder Karn passed the preliminary little machine eye test with flying colors so he didn't need the eye exam. But Sister Karn has a "lousy" eye (this is a professional eye doctor opinion from a Dr. son-in-law) and failed her eye test. After a couple of hours of tests, etc., the German eye doctor signed the form saying she could drive. Now the nice thing about that is it is already in German and we don't have to have it professionally translated!

Our first aid certificates that we just obtained from the American Red Cross have to be professionally translated. (The funny thing is all the Germans we have ever met speak wonderful English). Our Saturday was spent in a classroom learning (and re-learning) CPR/AED/First Aid from the American Red Cross. It wasn't free but the handouts and the materials were great. We are glad to have them. And by the way it is 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths now for adults, children and infants. The only difference is how much you can compress the chest - obviously! Elder Karn was most vigorous in his rescue breathing on the dummy. They had us use plastic shields over the face now and it is really hard to get a seal. You know how you have to get the chest of the dummy to raise with each breath? It is pretty hard to do with the shield over the dummy's mouth. Elder Karn was blowing like crazy and Sister Karn was saying - "the chest isn't rising" like a good coach would, right? So he blew harder and faster - poor dummy (the plastic thing with the phoney head and chest). Well, he (Elder Karn - keep it straight now) developed a bruised and fat lip from blowing so hard. After that we didn't use the face shield. The AED training was pretty fun , "Stand clear!", however, we hope we never have to use one.

Last week most of Germany celebrated Karnival, or Fasching or Fastnacht. It is all the same but is celebrated in bigger and better ways in more densely populated areas. The Germans in Baumholder had a little parade and wore costumes. We saw one lady with a beer keg hat that was pretty cute. Fasching is a continuation of the Catholic tradition of living it up before Lent. We were fed Berliners at the Thrift Store. No, that is not people from Berlin. It is a sweet filled donut that is delicious. You can say, I am from Berlin; "Ich bin Berliner". Or, you can say, I am a jelly filled donut; "Ich bin eine Berliner" (an American president once said this when visiting Germany).

We have had a wonderful and busy week. We drove to Frankfurt on Wednesday for a general combined stake Auxiliary Training meeting. We made it through many Autobahns and traffic jams to arrive at our destination without a hiccough. Our GPS is a lifesaver! The meeting was wonderful and we received some inspirational training. Elder Oaks, the Area President of the Europe Central Area for the Church, and also a retired 4 star general, has agreed to come and speak to our little branch in mid-March. Our branch president, President Nelson, was able to meet with Elder Oaks for a few minutes and Elder Oaks offered to come and speak when he heard that 85% of our men will be deployed in April. We are really looking forward to this and we know it will help the soldiers and their families to prepare for the deployment. And we, the Karns, will be working with the brigade chaplain to see if he will agree to give us a list of the LDS soldiers on post so we can give them a personal invitation to come and attend. We will invite the chaplains also.

So, good things are happening! Hope you all have a great week!
Elder and Sister Karn

Sunday, February 3, 2008

February 3, 2008

We continue to press forward - or as a good old Army boy would say - "we are leaning forward in the foxhole." I would explain that phrase but it was never explained to me. I think it is supposed to mean that even in a difficult situation you are pressing forward as much as is humanly possible. That is what we are trying to do! The persuit of German drivers licenses continues. After driving a long ways and getting our Utah drivers licenses officially translated into German we were ready for the next step. On post the folks told us what town we needed to take the translations to in order to get our drivers licenses. With the aid of our new state of the art GPS we headed out to conquer this task. The GPS was flawless in its navigation. Too bad that place only inspects cars and does not issue licenses. But the fellow there told us where to go to get our licenses - okay he told us it was on a street just before the traffic light. He didn't know the number and we had no idea what the street name was or how to tell the GPS where we wanted to go. But we started back-tracking and parked just before the traffic light. We did a practice run on the first building we went to. 'Wrong building but they did know where we were supposed to go. Upon reaching the correct building we attempted to get our licenses. 'Not going to happen yet! There are more hurdles to get over! We had to come back to Baumholder and go to the local courthouse. (Called a Rathaus - perhaps that is a good name too) Anyway, there we learned that we needed passport photos, an eye exam, and a first aid CPR class. A first aid class in German would not be too useful because we would only understand a few words. And if there was a test at the end I am afraid it would all be in vain. We next found that on post the Red Cross will be running a first aid class in a couple of weeks. That course is only $35 each. Now we understand that once you get a German drivers license it is good for life. I wonder if anyone's vision changes over a lifetime? And their appearance doesn't change over a lifetime? And I am certain that no one ever forgets any of their first aid training! Just a thought! So far we are in $150 for official translations and a lot of travel and visiting with folks. Passport photos, eye exams, and first aid classes are not going to stop us now. We are inching ever closer to having German drivers licenses! Finally the snow appeared again! Friday it started snowing like it meant business! We ended up with three inches of wet heavy snow and slush! Since then it has turned colder and there are those wheel busting blocks of snow and ice along the side of driveways and the road! (You know - the parts always pictured in the brochures about how much fun winter is!) I did get to use my new snow shovel! How cool is that! There are two parts to our assignment here. We are to be a resource for the members of the church here and to be ambassadors for the church and Jesus Christ. We try to be friendly and nice to everyone. We sometimes carry a plastic bag with us on our walks and pick up trash along the side of the road. There are a couple of areas that look better because we walked that way. Isn't that what life is all about - making those areas that you walk through better because you walked that way? We are are trying to do our best! Among the people here we feel we are as was said about Ammon and his brethren in Alma 27:4. We are "... among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them - for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God ...". We dearly love and miss all of you back home but we also dearly love the people here. And certainly they have loved us! We pray for those here, those deployed and for all of you back home! May the merciful Father of us all bless and keep all! Elder and Sister Karn
(Some of you may be able to view this video and others may not. It is just a short movie of Elder Karn shoveling snow. If you can view the video you must be a computer geek. We can't do it and we put it on there!)