Hallo Zusammen! Schon wieder!
It is just crazy how the time flies. I can’t beleive I have spent a whopping 6 months is singen and about a year in Germany at this point.
That ends this week as I am going to Graz, Austria. It is a beautiful place, clear on the opposite end of the mission. It is on the border of Slovakia and Hungary. I will be working with Sister Gardner in her third transfer.
I love Singen and will always love it, but I knew I’d have to go soon. No one wants me to leave here, except the Lord and His opinion is the one that matters! So I’m sure I will love Graz and serve well there.
Enough about me!
This week we met with out lovely recent converts, Christiana, Beauty, Mathew and Constanze as well as two less active families and our lovely Nancy, who is trying to get her marriage liscence for Germany and Ike, a guy who used to investigate, lost interest and then came up to us this week as we were teaching Christiana and said, ”Okay! when are you people going to teach me the word of God?”
Christiana started dancing and singing she was so happy that ”Uncle Ike” wanted to take the lessons of the gospel from us! haha so we started talking to him and he is really serious about getting his life in order and finding room for God! It is super cool.
The coolest thing about this mission are the people. Each and every one of them has a crazy, hard life and their stories are the most incredible things ever.
An Elder in our ward told me about a Priesthood meeting where the topic was hardships. They asked who had experienced real hunger, not an ”Oh! I am hungry!’ feeling, but real I don’t have food because of war or poverty hunger. Everyone except for the elders and one or two brothers raised their hands.
They then asked a pair of brothers what the hardest night they had was. The one brother looks at the other and goes ”I think it was the night they tried to take Mom, right?” the other shrugs and says ”probably.” They lived in a northern part of Germany being attacked by Russia. Russian mobs would come in and take all of the people’s belongings, ransack homes, hurt innocent people and gang rape women.
One night the Russians came to their house and grabbed their mother. Before they go out the house, the terrified screams of the two young boys stopped these men because they said she was too loud and they would just go next door and find another woman.
Another talked about the death camp for political figures he slaved in back in Sierra Leon.
Christiana is among these. She told us her full story this week. It made me respect and love her even more than I already did!
She was in her twenties selling fish on the coast of Nigeria. The place where she lived was one of sort of ”three groups” of people in Nigeria. Half of these people are Muslim and half are christian. Almost all are illiterate, especially the older women and can’t read at all or write or really tell what words are at all.
One older woman sold fried african food on the shore. In order to sell the food, she had to buy a big supply of paper to dish the food on. The seller decided to sell her pages of the holy Muslim book, the Quaran, for her to sell her food on. Unknowingly, she bought and used these holy pages.
One day a very stout and strong Muslim came and bought some of her food only to realise that the food was defiling the pages of what he saw as holy scripture. He attempted to kill the woman and burned her stand down. He could not find her, so instead he and his gang of muslims turned it into a war against all the christians. Christiana was numbered among them and forced to flee for her life. Thousands of people are fleeing and she has only one option: take the truck. There are two trucks
1. the Marlboro Truck which is only available to the rich for something like 500 dollars, which no one in Nigeria has oustide of the very rich
2. the other trucks, which cram over 200 people in like Sardines, limit the amount of water you can take to survive and travel for moths through the African desert up to Libya. Costs around 50 dollars.
She really could only take the second option, not having enough money to travel safely. She said the drivers were nearly inhuman. They would not stop except for in dangerous villages on the way to ensure that they did not travel alone. If the truck was alone and it stalled, he and all the passengers would surely die.
With crazy sand and dust storms covering them all from head to foot, extreme heat and starvation, people were dying left and right around Christiana. She said people would just be sobbing and asking the driver what to do. He would say to throw them off the side and get over it.
Christiana survives and makes it into Libya, at a time of peace there. She said life was good at first. She met friends, had her daughter, Miracle, and she got by. She worked.
Still, life was not the way you or I might see it. She wore full coverage, head to toe if she wanted to walk outside and not be stoned. She could also not eat in public because when you eat in public these thieves come and take the food right out of your mouth or hand as it is about to go into your mouth. She also said that by the actions and behaviors of those people she did not know if they were human.
After a few years of peace, a conflict started. A few of her friends went back to Nigeria to avoid a potential war there. Christiana, though was convinced that the war would never come. It did come and Christiana described the time with experiences like,
”You are talking to somebody and you go and you do not know if that person will live to see you again. They will probably die by bomb.”
Bombs and gore raged all around. She would see terrorists and poverty everywhere, but somehow survived. Her boyfriend become good friends with a hig-ranked good man and he helped them a lot.
One night, their luck came close to running out. A bomb destroyed half of their house and sprayed the one-year-old Miracle. She rushed Miracle to the hospital, but the doctors were turning the people away. Christiana said she saw numberless people with missing limbs just wailing outside waiting for some doctor or death. She said, one is missing an arm here another a leg there. Still, because Miracle was so small, a doctor cleaned and tended to her wounds then asked them to get out.
Everyone was trying to escape, but most people outside, if seen, were immediately killed. So, this good man snuck them out in the dead of night to a port. The port has small boats, again people are stuck together like Sardines, that take people from Africa to Italy. Most people die in transit as the boats are small, Life jackets are largely no option except for the really rich, and the seas are not calm. Her group got onto a boat and started sailing. The boat was rocking violently, but they did not get very far because a few women were driven to insanity and said they were witches and wanted to get into the ocean. Because of their insanity, the driver tuned around and refused to take them all across.
Christiana and Miracle and Blessing was there too and Miracles father all got luckily onto a nicer boat, just by chance. The boat even loaned Miracle a free Life Jacket. They got across the seas, which normally takes up to 3 weeks, in 17 hours.
They survived! Christiana, though, gets to Italy shaking of fear. As a refugee, she does not know if they will accept her or force her to get back to the war zone.
She ends up making it and lives in a tiny camp with many others then gets here and we knock on her door about 2 months later and now she is baptised, safe, and livign in her own room in Germany!
She is still one of the happiest, liveliest, and most kind people I know.
I cannot imagine going through that, but I am extremely grateful that what Jesus Christ did helps her, too. It helps us all.
You never know what you neighbor has been through. It is so important to keep on smiling, loving and giving God our best.
This makes us happy, gives us peace no matter what our past, present or future look like.
Have a great week,