Only a 30-minute train ride from the metropolis of Hannover and nestled comfortably among acres of flowered springtime fields sits the small German city of Stadthagen. This is the place where 19-year-old Esther Graf grew up. It’s a place where everything can be reached by foot or bicycle, where bakeries and ice-cream stores dot the streets, and where weekday markets fill the city square.
Stadthagen is also home to a thriving Latter-day Saint community.
Although the city is small, Stadthagen has a large ward—an anomaly for Germany, where there are fewer than five members for every 10,000 Germans. But for Esther it has been the perfect place to learn how to live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to use those principles to serve and bless others.
When Esther was 14, she received her patriarchal blessing, which brought about an important realization. “It became clear to me how important I really am to Heavenly Father,” she says. “I learned how important all of us are to Him.”
She takes that knowledge and applies it to her relationships with others.
In her calling on the stake young single adult council, for example, she’s responsible for making sure everyone feels included. “I’m learning not to be critical of others but to get to know them instead.”
She also keeps that in mind when she’s at school. “I’m asked pretty often about my religion, but I don’t find that bad in any way,” she says. “Somehow it always makes me happy because then I simply remind myself how much it helps me and how much it brings to my life. Through the gospel I just know so much.
“There’s always going to be people who make fun of our faith and who don’t understand it,” she says, “but it’s really not so bad when we stand behind what we believe.”
Esther’s love for and trust in God is what helps her the most in living and sharing the gospel.
“Before you worry,” she said, “trust God first. When I do that and I have faith, everything else is simple. When we trust God, we can move forward in our lives with faith and confidence in the future. When we do that, we can live as witnesses of God.”