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Becoming Mormon
I will act and obey for I trust. See 1 Nephi 3:7
Me and my trusty whistle keep streets safe!

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Red Cross Psychological First Aid Certificate

I've been busy teaching for the Red Cross, doing Standard First Aid, CPR, and Babysitting. These classes are offered through the "Heath and Safety" line.

Lately I've started looking into volunteering in the "Disaster Services" lline. There's an orientation called "Fulfilling Our Mission" which give you an overview of the line. I took that a couple of weeks ago.

This evening, I took "Psychological First Aid", where you help learn to give support to people who've been affected by disasters, both natural and man-made. It wasn't such a difficult course, but it certainly taught me a lot about how to help people better!

If you're interested in becoming better prepared for things, consider checking out RedCross.org!

I've also completed the online portion of "Assessing Disasters"—100% on the test! The in-class portion will be next week. In this class we learn about collecting information in areas that have been hit by a disaster. Mapping dwellings for damange, etc. It's fascinating work!

Current Mood: accomplished

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My last calling was as Ward Mssion Leader. And you know when people ask me now about my life back in Germany, I do get...wistful?...about the life I used to lead.

I mean, I'm ok now, too. Not wonderful but ok. And I'm building, progressing. The fact is, I work part-time as an instructor for the American Red Cross. And they really do love me there. Plus, duh, I love being someone who's helping others learn to save lives. Wow. I mean, point blank, wow.

Well, ok, I was called by my bishop in my new mega-ward (seriously we have over 700 (active?) members) to be a ward missionary. Now, I truly am humbled and excited to serve in whatever capacity I'm called. But yeah, I have to adjust a bit, don't I? The fact is, when I suggested ward missionaries (when I was WML), I had looked at the members in our ward who had no callings and prayed about how I could engage them more. My "inspired' plan was to ask most of them to accept this calling.

So how do I put this nicely? I mean, it was kind of a way to encourage people to be more active who otherwise seemed like they had, well, not much to do.

Ok, the dynamics with my current ward are way different. And I trust, beyond any petty feelings I seem to have, I trust fully that God is placing me where I need to be. Just as sure as the stars in the sky are there to guide us, so too are our callings meant as well.

If I ever was proud, I'm here to learn humility. And honestly? I'd rather spend time now to learn that than later.

God's blessings on us all!
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Or rather mice!

A blur dashed across the living floor from one couch to the next this evening. I thought my roommate had dropped something, but he somewhat casually informed me it was either a mouse or a very large cockroach. He'd seen the same a few days earlier.

And I don't know what was more shocking, there being such vermin sharing my living quarters or him doing and saying nothing for so long.

He said he figured he'd deal with it over the weekend. (Which struck me as, sadly, unlikely.) I high tailed it out to the CVS and bought some items for pest control. A healthy dose of prayer while walking accompanied on my journey. I tried and am trying still to fathom his actions.

In any case, two things have come to mind. First, somehow, this is going to be a challenge I rise to. And second, um, Joseph Smith and countless others have gone through far worse that worrying about some (perhaps disease ridden) mouse.

Postscript. I don't have health insurance, so if the thing does have rabies or something and bites me, um....
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I subbed in for a fellow CPR instructor this evening, and while I was walking to the bus stop on my way home, I crossed paths with various intoxicated St. Patrick's Day revellers. I don't judge or begrudge them their fun. After all, as a covert who once lived according to a different code, I know what it's like to chase that illusory beast.

But all I could think of was getting home and, honestly, pouring myself a tall, cold glass of milk. How cool is that! :)

Current Mood: goofy

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My ward is, well, huge! We have over 700 members, which was intimidating in concept but only before I actually checked them out. People have been very friendly, of course. What else would you expect from Latter-day Saints? :)

The large membership means there are things we can do that other, smaller wards might not. For example, we have a very active group of singles, ages 30-45. In other wards, it seems there often aren't enough resources for this range.

Well, I went to our group's Institute yesterday evening. The discussion was on Elder Marvin J. Ashton's On Being Worthy. Reading this text really hit home for me. I'm 35. And of course I wonder, "Will I meet the 'one' for me? Have I waited to long? What have I got to offer?"

We had a great dicussion. One point that's always useful to remember is: are our thoughts and feelings inspired by a spirit of love (i.e. God)? Or by the Adversary? And I suppose doubting one's self worth doesn't exactly help us to progress. Every now and then it's helpful to remind myself that, as long as I focus on moving forward, the rest will follow.

Another thing that crossed my mind yeseterday was the fact, the fact, that we Saints are blessed, having received the Gift of the Holy Ghost upon our confirmation. As a convert, I have to admit that I didn't exactly notice a grand difference right after I joined the Church. But this also makes sense, considering I was in the middle of an amazing experience, not on the edges of it. Today, looking back over the past year and a half since, I can definitely see the peaks and valleys of my journey. It's hard to describe, but I can confirm that I've never been alone. The Lord's loving Spirit has been with me at every moment.

It was good to be among people who share my beliefs. And I'm looking forward to building these new friendships and becoming a better servant.
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I went to church yesterday -- finally made it to my new ward!

I was nervous 'cuz I had heard how huge a ward they are. And, well, they...er, we!...really do have a lot of members. But they totally made me feel at home. I guess every week we hold a new members orientation meeting during the Sunday School hour -- that's how many people we have coming into the ward. But a lot of people leave the geographic area, too. This is suburban Washington, DC (Northern Virginia) after all, so lots of politicos and military types coming and going.

But I should be here for a bit. I'm really looking forward to getting to know these folks and having them become a stronger part of my family.
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I chatted online with a returned missionary that I served with as ward mission leader before I moved from Germany back to the United States.

Long story short, I need some extra motivation to get off my duff and get myself into church. At one point back then, we'd all bought ties together and signed each others'. And he and I agreed to wear those ties this coming Sunday, to make sure we go, even though I'm in Virginia and he's in Alaska.

And that's the thing. It's a commitment. Not just some abstract, pie-in-the-sky thing. But a real, personal thing. And I know, I'm going to do it. And that, my friends, is what the Living Gospel is about!
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People, don't forget your mission work! :)

Even though I've moved and I'm no longer a ward mission leader, I'm grateful for the time I had serving with that calling. I'm also really glad I joined the Church in a "mission" land like Germany.

But the thing is, no ward -anywhere- is really any different. We can't forget that.

I've had the good fortune this week to visit the ward in the town where I grew up. I'm splitting the time between my mom and dad and my brother and his family. They're not members, and I'm not trying to do some full court press on them, either. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about the whole question. Still, I invited my mom to church and she accepted. We had a really good time yesterday, in fact.

The speakers talked about gratitude and mom found a lot of resonance in some of her own experiences. I invited the missionaries over for lunch today, too. I think that's an interesting point: even as a "visitor" we can look out for missionary opportunities, even doing things with local Elders and Sisters. My mom couldn't stay because she had plans of her own, but my stepdad was there. I made a spaghetti casserole and for dessert we had brownies and ice cream. We enjoyed a spirtual thought afterwards, and my stepdad said he liked how the young men handled it.

(Previously he and my mom had met with missionaries who were of the old-school, just regurgitating memorized scripts without enough personal connection. This time around it was a much more a question of tending to the flock vs. delivering a stern lecture.)

I was a little disappointed that my mom couldn't be there, but before the missionaries arrived, I said a little prayer of thanks for what was before me. I reminded myself that, first, my blessings are richly abundant as they are, and second, that the Holy Spirit guides us according to what other people need, not just what we need. It was probably good that my mom came alone with me to Church and that my stepdad was alone with the missionaries today. Each of them had a chance to experience the Spirit with undivided attention. I'll pray about next Sunday, and hopefully they both will come together with me.

I'm leaving next Monday, anyhow. And yet I know that when I visit again, I'll have the chance to extend the invitation further. In the mean time, in two Sundays I'll finally get to visit my new ward back in Virginia. It'll be "Fastensonntag" -- what is that in English? Fasting and Testimony Sunday? It should be a powerful experience!

(P.S. No pictures yet of the ward here. To be honest, external beauty is not the bedrock upon which this ward is built.)
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Today I went to my first church (LDS) service in the United States. I was nervous, of course, well, being all alone and all. But that's normal. I quickly found some people to talk to, including an investigator who was sitting alone, so I sat next to him. I thought I'd post some pictures.

A member gave me a ride home, and it took about 10 minutes, tops. The bus-ride there took just over an hour... Here's one of the buses I took:


The good news is, though it was really chilly, they skies were beautiful on this Sunday morning. Here's the intersection where I got out:


The meetinghouse is nestled in a lovely residential area, and walking there on this fine autumn day was a wonderful way to prepare myself spiritually:


There are two churches you find as you walk up the road. Here's ours!


And the corner view:


And the street entrance:


Apparently the Arlington (Virginia) Ward meetinghouse is (one of) the oldest still operating east of the Mississippi!

Now, the sad news is, this isn't actually my ward! The bishop showed me, I live, literally, on the "wrong" side of the street. Not only am I in a different ward, but I'm in a different stake! I say it's sad just because I really liked the people there today. But they all assure my that my actual ward (Crystal City) is really awesome. Apparently it's one of these 700 or so member mega-wards.

Going from a small ward in Germany to one that size is gonna be a real trip, I'm sure. Unfortunately I won't know for a couple of weeks, though. I'll be travelling home to the Chicagoland area for a couple of weeks to visit with my mother and the rest of the family. But on the up side, I'll get to viist a ward or two there, as well! :)

By the way, I really love the Lord. :)
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I was spending time with a great friend of mine yesterday and she told me that, even when I've taken a lot of time to contemplate a decision, it often comes as a big surprise when I tell others, who haven't necessarily been part of the contemplation process.

Well, this is such a time. I'm moving! Back to the USA. Just outside of Washington, DC, where I had lived before coming to Germany. Next Monday will be my last day here. I still have a lot of things to tie up, and it's been stressful! But somehow I'm sure I'll land on my feet.

Anyhow, it might be a while before I post on here again. I'm going to try to stay low-tech for as long as possible and concentrate on some fundamentals. That's something I'm really looking forward to.

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One of the things that means so much to be about General Conferences is the opportunity it give us to discuss really important issues, even those that aren't easy to deal with. I know the Lord loves us and given the challenges life presents us he never leaves us to be alone.

The LDS newsroom recently sent out this item, and it's an issue that affected me as a child, so I'm including it here as well. We need to do our best, truly our best, to protect our children, most especially those who have been hurt at the hands of others. I know one of the greatest services we can provide is helping heal children who have been abused, physically and otherwise.

See http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=20143708&BRD=1817&PAG=461&dept_id=222089&rfi=6

CASA GRANDE, Arizona - Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints recently spent nearly a week turning a large vacant
building into the semblance of a warm and inviting home. The building will
be a new children's shelter built by Against Abuse Inc.

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So, our plan for Family Home Evening was a real hit. The guest family loved it, and my teaching companion was a great help. Here we are afterwards in our ward meetinghouse. Clearly, we were full of the Spirit! :)

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LDS.ORG rocks. It just does.

I decided to search there for stuff on Family Home Evening, and there's a cool set of pages on the subject.

Here's my game plan (so far) for the new convert family I'm visiting next week—based on the Church's helpful planning tool. (I forgot to mention that I happen to also be their home teacher!)

Family Home Evening
Family xxx
29 September 2008

Opening Song:
I am a Child of God

Opening Prayer:
t.b.d. (me or the mother)

Moroni 8:12, first line (one of the kids, hopefully)

We are all God's Spirit Children (me)

a) coloring from Liahana/Ensign 9/2008
b) U.S. states (finding where our missionaries are from, key states in the Restoration story)
c) UNO (as requested by the kids)

Closing prayer:
t.b.d. (hopefully the son, again)
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If anyone out there is reading this and has some good ideas for FHE activities for kids (they're 8 and 10) please let me know!

As a single adult male whose parents and such live on a different continent (I'm in Germany, they're in the Chicagoland area), I don't have a family here that I enjoy Family Home Evening with. Our Young Adults get together at the meeting house on Mondays, but at 34 going on 35 (as youthful as I am mentally!) I feel I need something different. Or more. Or something.

One of our High Priest has a Japanese wife who spends time recently between staying here a couple of moths and then a couple of months in Japan with her elderly parents who have some health issues. I asked him what he does on Mondays for some tips. He said geneaology was something to think about. So, that's something I can do. As a convert, it's kinda cool that I'll get to do a lot of temple work for my ancestors, for sure.

Another thing, and this works well given my calling as ward mission leader, is that I figure I can spend some time with other recent converts and maybe less active and part-member families to institute or shore up their FHE efforts. We had a baptism two weeks ago, and the sister has two children. The kids are great but without a father figure, there's a definite need for support. It was pretty informal, but I got them to turn off the TV for a bit—without the usual protest—which was a minor triumph in and of itself! :)

It was casual but good. They asked about one of our full-time missionaries who's completed his service and is back home in Alaska. They didn't know where that is, so I said I'd bring my atlas next week to show them. And the love the card game UNO, but they don't have their own cards, so I'll bring some next week, too. And I figure the youth section of Liahana (the international name for Ensign) will make a good spiritual complement as well.

The really awesome thing was our closing prayer. Since I'd prayed for the family earlier, I asked the sister if maybe she'd like someone else to say a closing prayer. Like maybe one of her children. So, we talked really basically about what prayer is, and I demonstrated how I do it. Invoking Heavenly Father, expressing what's in our hearts... the youngest, her son, jumped in and said he wanted to do it. I tell ya, it was short and sweet and I think we could all learn from his earnestness.

I left there feeling humbled. And truly honored to be doing something to build up the community of Saints here and now.

Current Mood: happy

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GML Schulung 20080828

This photo was taken of me after our "GML Schulung" this evening. I guess that would be translated as Ward Mission Leader training, but it's really a roundtable discussion for us WML's. Sharing best practices and the like. I'm applying for a job in Frankfurt, so I thought it would be good to have a current picture of me.
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I'll tell you, there's nothing better for the cleanliness of my apartment than a visit from the bishop!

I asked him to come over this evening to talk about a decision that's been on my mind. He's someone I trust, even a friend, and more than anything I wanted to just hear what his thoughts were. In the end, of course, I'll make my own decision. But it's still good to gather opinions from people you value.

And I mean that about the cleanliness bit, as well...! I clean like a madman when I know he's coming over. As a single man living alone, I should probably think of other excuses to like clean my bathroom fixtures, but hey, whatever works, right?
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Our first (ever?) Pioneer Day celebration was a great success! Here are some photos.Collapse )

Current Mood: happy

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You know, we really are creatures of habit. And I think that's part of why we have such an emphasis on remaining obedient to Heavenly Father's commandments. It's like practice. And the more often we practice, the easier it gets, until, basically, keeping on the strait and narrow path just comes as second nature.

I'm not saying I'm quite there yet. But I do see the sense in it all.
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Do you know what it means, I mean truly means to be a Saint?

The missionaries who taught me told me that if I made and remained faithful to my covenants with the Lord that he would bestow wonderful, nearly indescribable blessings upon me. Although I could not fully comprehend their meaning at the time, I still felt a sense of truth in what they were saying. Not only truth in their own experiences but also in my own.

The Lord does prepares His children, even those of us who were not born into the covenant. I believe the Lord showed me enough things in life before my conversion for me to know the Truth which the missionaries shared with me.

The journey over the past many months has had many personal highs and lows. Sometimes I've despaired at the great swings. But on the other hand, I sense it all may be part of a awesome revolution within me, one which may very well lead toward something great.

And I do believe that it is not only how we begin things but how we end them that is decisive. I suppose I'm thinking about these things in particular because I received my patriarchical blessing this afternoon. We never know for sure where we'll end up. At least, if we think we do, we risk being arrogant, relying on our own knowledge instead of trusting in our Lord. So, even without knowing for sure, I pray that Heavenly Father be with me and help me. I won't be able to manage it without Him.

Current Mood: in transit

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