Sunday, August 31, 2008

The town of Idar-Oberstein, home of the "Felsenkirche", or as it is often called Church in the Rock. It sits high above the town, carved into the stone. The view is from the church overlooking the town. Parts of the church date back to the 1400s. The old scriptures are impressive.

Idar-oberstein is the German capital of the gemstone industry. The gems are depleted in this area, but they now import from Brazil and other countries. There is wonderful gemstone museum there. This is an amethyst geode - big isn't it?

Larger than life crystal.

Some of you may be getting tired of hearing about castles and ruins, etc. How can you get tired of castles? Actually, sometimes we are tired of castles. We don't get as excited when we see them now as we did at first. The first two or three castles I saw were unbelievable. I wanted to know everything about them. It is like living in Germany. We have been here for more than 10 months and it has almost become routine. However, we have many more adventures and experiences ahead of us. We still see the miracles from day to day. We love Germany and we love working with the US Military. We try very hard every day to help some one.

Back to castles . . .just think about what life was like back in the middle ages. No one washed and deodorant wasn't invented, the peasants were terribly oppressed and overworked, the dampness and cold were brutal, disease was rampant, the rich were tyrants and lived off the poor, hardly anyone could read, the church/government state was corrupt, and it was often "kill or be killed", etc. It was not the glamorous romantic era portrayed in the movies. I am grateful to live in modern times. I can pick up the Bible and read and ponder what is there on written page. So few had that privilege. The castle ruins remind me of that privilege.

However, the castles in Germany also have something else to share. There are sagas, tales, and legends associated with the castles' histories. It is doubtful if all the stories are true, who knows? The fact is this, moral values can be learned if we apply the lessons from the stories. Take the Brother's Grimm, compilers of fairytales and folklore from Germany and surrounding countries. Look at their tale of Cinderella. Does it pay to be wicked and selfish? Or, does the hard working innocent girl get the prince in the end? See, just be good.

Castles (from the Latin word castellum, meaning fortification)were built by noblemen or monarchs for fortification or defense. As part of the castle, there was usually a "keep" or a tower, also a fortification. Sometimes the treasury was kept there. Isn't it clever to name where you put your treasury a "keep"? Germans love traditions including those of knighthood, castles, dark forests, and old legends. Castles are an integral part of Germany and its past. To visit German castles, one travel guide says, "is to get to know Germans in all their cultural and historical diversity". It has been reported that there are over 20,000 castles in Germany. Some are barren ruins while others are restored or preserved architectural wonders and give us a nearly medieval experience. There are many wonders in Germany; ancient history with the Roman Empire, kings and queens through the ages, wars and conquerors. And most wonderful is that it is a modern progressive orderly country of today, having recovered mostly from two horrible world wars. One thing is prominent, history can be a teacher.

So, we hope you will enjoy our continuing to share stories about travels and adventures around this wonderful country. The people are smart and kind with a past I don't envy. We want to learn from it.

Have a great week. We will!
Sister and Elder Karn

Sunday, August 24, 2008

TO ALL: Greetings from Germany!! Here are the things I'm sure you all want to know.

Most of the crops are harvested now and the hours of sunlight are getting shorter. The nights are cooler and it looks like soon we will be back to the damp and cold weather. Days top out around 65-75 and the nights go down to 50-60. (Some of you have come to expect a weather and crop report and so I thought you should have one.) I always enjoy traveling though the heartland of America and see the evening news brought to you by seed, fertilizer, and farm equipment ads. There are places where crops and farms are tops.

Anyway, things are moving along here. Dear Sister Karn has had a very busy week of creating things. Yesterday we went to the on base (The Air Force has "bases" and the Army has "posts", "forts" and "camps") and found the Craft Center. I covered the place in about five minutes and was done looking but she got bogged down in crafty things and took a bit longer. Part of the week she has worked on invitations for the start of the new Institute year. Personalized invitations have gone out to all of the Young single Adults. She has spent many hours putting them together. I thought it best to let her run wild in the "art-sy" stuff so I did the dishes and worked on the laundry or any other task that needed to be done. The Craft Center gave her more ideas!

There are some very special Young Single Adults we are working with right now. Some of them we are losing to school as they head out for the states. Three will be heading out for missions over the next three months. One gets deployed this week and still others will soon be leaving the military or moving on to a new assignment. One of the things about being in the military or working with them is that the change is often and comes when you just get to know them. What we can't see is down the road and see who is coming in. Wonderful people come and wonderful ones go.

German school children went back to school two weeks ago. We see them coming and going wearing back packs just like in the states. Some ride the train and some ride public buses. The schools on the military bases start this coming week.

It's hard to believe that we have been gone from home for ten months. This past week we passed over another month and now we have just a couple of days under eight months left. In the military we would express our time left as "seven months and change". We have a lot to do in those few days ahead so we will be busy. We wish all the very best. May your days be filled with work that makes you happy and blesses you and those around you!


Elder and Sister Karn

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Photos from a couple of nearby villages we recently discovered: Freinsheim and Neuleiningen (with the castle).

I thought this was a tool of torture but Elder Karn says it was used as a farming implement to harrow the ground before planting. It was one of those "combo" tools I think.

It is one of those weeks we could have been more useful at home than we were here. Some of our family are experiencing crises and concerns. It feels as if we were in another world being so far away. We want so badly to be there for family and almost feel guilty that we are not there. However, what we CAN do we SHALL. We offer our love and interest and concern and fervent prayers.

Our week here has gone well. We had some great attendance at our weekly Monday Family Home Evening where we have an evening meal, a spiritual lesson, and dessert. Sometimes we also play a game. Our lessons are usually taught by the young single adults themselves. We have some great lessons. We also had good attendance at our monthly Pizza & Movie Night on Friday. It is great that the young single adults have a safe place to go to be together with their peers. All we do is love them and make sure they feel welcomed and fed. Some are leaving for college or missions, others leaving for special military training, and others have schedule changes that make it impossible to attend for 6 weeks at a time. We often have a radical change in who we see. Our Institute Outreach Center is unique.

The days are much shorter and the nights much cooler. The autumn season seems to start in August with the leaves even changing color. The few (you can guess who is writing this easily) hot days are gone. It is interesting that in the summer we have more hours of daylight and in the winter we have less hours our daylight than our hometown of Ogden, Utah. I am not excited about the long cold winter ahead but having been through it once, perhaps my blood is a little thicker. I also know how to keep warmer this time (layer, layer, layer and hot food!).

We had a very positive meeting with the new Kaiserslautern Army Garrison chaplain last Thursday. He was honest and straight forward and said he would not treat us any differently than he would any other religious denomination. It was refreshing. We offered our services to help with any community event. He said he may have Elder Karn read some scripture or say a prayer in a non-denominational religious service at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can always offer to play the piano (with practice first).

We continue to volunteer at the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center and enjoy the other volunteers that fly over from the states to volunteer for a month at a time, all at their own expense. They often work for 7 days a week, for 10 hour days, up to 30 days. They are some of the best people we have ever met and good examples of service to us.

We hope your week will be good.
Much love,
Sister and Elder Karn

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our young single adult tour group from yesterday - going to a medieval fair in Angelbachtal.

This is a hand pulled Farris wheel for children - pretty quaint.

The most fun was a jousting match!

10/08/2008 Report from Germany. By the way, in Europe they write their dates - day/month/year (with all four digits on the year.) In the US we of course write our dates with month/day/year and normally our year is in two digits. So the date is August 10Th 2008.

The days are noticeably shorter here already and some leaves are coming off some of the trees and shrubs. We noticed in the winter that the days (sunlight hours that is) were a little shorter than back home and then in the summer they were a little longer. So there has to be a bit more change per day than we are used to back home.

Farmers have been harvesting crops like crazy in the last couple of weeks. The wheat is done of course and many oats have been combined. There aren't too many fields of corn here so I don't have much to report there. The few fields of corn I have seen have been pretty good looking corn but not quite as tall as most of our corn in upstate NY. And the ears look a little smaller than I would expect for this time of year back home. There are a couple of dairy farms around the area and I think the little corn is being grown for their use.

Today we rode back up to Baumholder because I was assigned to speak there. It is a bit more open country and less houses than where we are now so it was a nice drive for us. The trip was good and it was great to see a few of our old friends.

This past week has been pretty standard with the usual activities until Saturday. Few if any come to our center on Saturday so we decided to go on a USO tour and invite the Young Single Adults to join us. The "USO" is the same organization that has been around a long time taking care of the military folks with shows and having activities and a place for them. 'Remember the "Bob Hope" shows and all of that. (I never saw one while I was in Vietnam because I always ended up having to fly protection for them while they were there and performing.)

So ten of us went on a USO bus trip to a Medieval Fair. They had the vendors, the knights jousting and the whole show. There were many folks there that just go to these things a lot and have their own costumes. Folks dress up as what ever they would like to be. It looked to me like some of them really wanted to time travel back to that time period. It was kind of a people-watching type of day. The bus ride was relaxing, the weather was great, the good guys won the day at the jousting and the bratwurst was great. It is hard to get much better than that.

The only other thing to add to the weekly report is that I broke a filling off a tooth eating a carrot so I had to go see a German dentist. Because we don't have insurance coverage over here I had him just put another filling in even though he recommended a cap or crown. He was really good (as good as it can get going to a dentist). I contributed another couple of hundred bucks to the German economy. So now I have checked out the dentists in Paraguay and Germany. If any of you are headed this way or down to Paraguay and want to know where to go to find good dentists I can give some first hand advise.

We are well, happy and doing our best.

We love and miss you all very much!

Take care, check out the crops and don't break any teeth!


Elder & Sister Karn

Sunday, August 3, 2008

We heard the music from down at the corner from our apartment. Elder Karn gave him some coins and took his picture. It was very "oompa" calliope!

We have had a great week to recover from our service project. It seemed like we needed a nap every day for a few days afterwards. Thank goodness for naps! But we are so grateful for the success of the project and all those who helped. It will probably always be a real highlight for our mission. Speaking of which, we are halfway.

Our "wounded warrior" has recovered well since he had surgery on his injured hand. As you may remember, he was shot in the hand in Afghanistan. On Monday he had surgery and they placed a metal plate over his wrist area to stabilize the shattered bones. He still has a lot of finger movement but his wrist is very limited. He looks great and has been released to outpatient status. He tells us he will fly back to his unit in Italy next Friday. It has been such a joy to visit with him.

Yesterday we were blessed with another grandchild! (no. 17 for Elder Karn and as we share no. 23 for both of us). His name is Robert (Robbie) Glen Wixom and he weighed in at 8 lb.s 14 oz., 21 inches long. He is good size at 2 weeks overdue! It was not like a library book that we didn't get back in time. He just kept growing! And little mom Linda had to have a C-section. We wish her the best. Becoming a mother is a real sacrifice! The happy parents are Russ and Linda Wixom of Federal Way, Washington. Congratulate us and them! We miss family very much. We knew when we decided to go on a mission that we would not see our grandchildren, including newborns, miss out on baptisms and birthdays, etc., and not be there for family crises. We hope you all know that is the greatest sacrifice for us to make. We would definitely love to be there for you all. Hopefully we can do some good here for those far from their loved ones too.

Other events of the week are 1. Elder Karn broke his tooth on a carrot. At least he was eating healthy! We have no dental insurance over here (it starts Oct. 1) so we will try our saddest faces when we see the German dentist. 2. They are changing mission cars on us again. They try to balance out the kilometers on all the cars to last the full lease. The cars are leased for 4 years or 65,000 km, whichever comes first, for 7000E. Amazing price. It will be fun to see if it is another red Corsa Opel. 3. Gas prices dropped to 1.45E per liter, which makes it approximately $8.70 per gallon. That is better than $10 per gallon. and 4. We found another delicious German food: cheese pretzels (Bretzels)!

Today at Sunday meetings we met an LDS reservist chaplain assigned to Landstuhl for four months. We are ecstatic! This will be great to work with him and the chaplaincy, especially after the very successful service project and the groundwork set in place by our former LDS chaplain, Erik Harp. Sometimes you just can't count all the blessings they come in so fast.

Have a great week!
Sister and Elder Karn